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TasPorts - Devonport Airport

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 1 December 2022

Tags: TasPorts, Devonport

Ms O'CONNOR - I am very interested in the Devonport Airport upgrade and the plans for national domination of the skies of Devonport airport, our regional airport. What is the total projected cost of the upgrades, minister, through you? Is that going to be a shared cost with government or is it all to be funded by TasPorts?

Mr FERGUSON - Thanks, Ms O'Connor. I will ask the chair and the CEO to respond with that kind of detail. We were very pleased, I think two weeks ago, to launch the DPO master plan. It was extremely enthusiastically received. I really want to credit the team for having quite a bold vision for Devonport airport to grow, not just services flying into and out of Devonport, providing a vital air link for the local community and a population of about 100 000 people within a 30 kilometre radius. It's a really significant thing.

Ms O'CONNOR - They already have that.

Mr FERGUSON - The master plan also encourages and invites investment by third parties at the site. Regarding the potential delivery of that and the way it would be funded, that would be a board consideration to be carefully considered. I am quite comfortable with the chair or the CEO elaborating further.

Mr BRADFORD - Ms O'Connor, the biggest expenditure was on the relaying of the runway. That was completed two to three years ago at a cost of $4 million to $5 million. Under the accounting treatment at the time it was expense. It has been paid for. Devonport airport still suffers from post COVID-19 issues, with Qantas back but with a lesser number of flights. We are delighted that Rex joined us in August, which is the first time we have had a second commercial aircraft carrier there. The future for Devonport airport looks, for a regional airport, reasonably strong. We're hoping for complementary private sector development on the fringes.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you. It does not really answer the question, Mr Bradford. I understand is there to be an extension of the runway at Devonport airport?

Mr DONALD - The master plan provides guidance for future development. It identifies the opportunity for expansion. There is currently no business case for an expansion of the runway. It is very much a futuristic planning document, providing guidance on opportunities for future investment. TasPorts is very focused on bankable business cases. We require and encourage private sector investment. That requires us to invest equally with supporting commercial contracts that would fund any debt.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you for that answer. Has there been any approach from a national or international airline to partner with TasPorts in the redevelopment or development of Devonport airport?

Mr DONALD - No, not that I am aware of. I'd be surprised if I was not advised of that. That would be quite exciting. I think the challenge we have in Devonport is simply passenger numbers. Pre-COVID-19 we had just under 150 000 passengers per annum. We're currently sitting at around 50 000 passengers per annum, and climbing. Our short-term ambition is to get back to pre COVID-19 numbers.

Ms O'CONNOR - So we have here a fairly fancy document: the Devonport Airport Master Plan 2035. It does not have a budget attached to it. The money that has been spent so far is on the upgrade of the runway. There is no money being set aside for an extension.

Mr DONALD - We currently have no money allocated in our budget for anything other than management of the existing assets at Devonport airport.

Mr BRADFORD - If we received a proposition, and we have not, that would require development, the board and management would consider that seriously. There is nothing currently before us. It is quite normal for airports to put out 30-year master plans, a long-term vision. But the current strategy is steady as she goes.

Ms O'CONNOR - What sort of lens would you apply to a national or international airline coming to Devonport and saying, 'We'd like to setup a Hainan Airlines, for example, training school, at Devonport'. How would that be approached by the board or the company?

Mr BRADFORD - That's a very specific question.

Ms O'CONNOR - An international airline whether they were part of a totalitarian government or not.

Mr BRADFORD - An international airline approaching us for a passenger service would be considered on community benefit, likely growth and financial return. If it involved a training school, you really have to partner with the university and that would make it trickier. We weren't a strong proponent in the previous discussions on training schools. Other airports probably had more to offer than us. Don't punch above your weight is our philosophy.

Ms O'CONNOR - I think you always should, but anyway.