Airport runway extension will draw thousands to Kangaroo Island, with Qantas flights starting in December

 Published on The Advertiser 5 June 2017 – Click here to view the original article.

Premier Jay Weatherill on the tarmac at Kangaroo Island, where an upgraded runway is expected to be ready at the year’s end. Picture: Tait Schmaal

AN UPGRADED airport on Kangaroo Island is expected to be ready in November — allowing larger planes to bring tens of thousands more tourists each year — and Qantas has now announed it will start regular flights the following month.

The $18 million upgrade, jointly funded by state and federal governments, is underway and involves lengthening the runway to allow non-stop flights by large planes from interstate capitals including Melbourne, Sydney or Perth.

The expanded capacity is expected to enable an extra 25,000 visitors to the island each year.

Qantas announced today it is planning direct flights to the island from Adelaide and Melbourne, starting in December, complementing existing air services offered by Regional Express (Rex)

and SeaLink’s ferry service.

Qantas will offer three flights per week from Adelaide, increasing to five times per week during

the peak summer period through to Easter.

There will also be three flights per week from Melbourne during the summer holiday season.

It follows a $9 million SA Government contribution toward the airport upgrade matched by Federal Government funding.

Premier Jay Weatherill said this morning he was delighted the “flying kangaroo” had announced it will start flying to its namesake.

“Kangaroo Island is already one of our state’s most popular destinations and now thousands

more people from South Australia, interstate and overseas will get to experience one of our

great natural wonders,” Mr Weatherill said.

“Tourism is one of our state’s great growth industries and our partnership with Qantas will deliver even more jobs and economic growth for South Australia.”

Government ministers are on Kangaroo Island for the final Country Cabinet of the year, after holding a public forum on Sunday night, and have confirmed the airport is on track for the November target.

Work continues on the airport runway. Picture: Tait Schmaal

The proposal has gained major project status but must still be assessed for final approval.

The chosen site is right next to the on-land Yumbah Abalone Farm and its owners say the wharf construction and activity would be disastrous to its delicate operations.

Yumbah general manager David Connell said abalone was a sensitive species and could easily die if the water supply, drawn from the ocean, was disturbed.

“We assumed that being in a coastal conservation zone, we would have some form of protection,” he said.

“We can’t afford to lose this business.”

Mr Connell said associated farms and food processing plants in Port Lincoln, Wingfield and Lonsdale would also be affected.

KIPT managing director John Sergeant said the company was confident it could address environmental concerns and the wharf would be an economic driver for the island.

“We won’t get consent to build the wharf unless we can protect the water quality, and nor should we,” he said.