The push for Tamworth to become an international air freight centre is gathering momentum with positive signs from the federal and state governments they want to see the project succeed.
Tamworth Regional Council has pinpointed the main exports from a potential international facility that will focus on prime beef, dairy and horticultural products.
With China seen as the main destination, Tamworth Council is actively seeking ways to solve the issue of what will be imported into Australia by incoming freight planes.
Tamworth Council’s director of Business and Community John Sommerlad said council had the capacity to deal with major logistical issues, including providing space for warehousing. The major issues to overcome was the cost, and sourcing potential airfreight imports. Discussions were underway with the federal government to deal with quarantine and customs.
Mr Sommerlad said the landing tarmac at Tamworth would have to be extended by 800 metres. There would be have to new airport lights and new plane taxiways.
New warehousing would be available in a designated 246ha industrial zone near the airport, which the council was looking to rezone.
Mr Sommerlad revealed Tamworth Regional Council was in the process of engaging consultants to start a feasibility study into the airfreight project. Also a peer review of the airfreight plan was in the pipeline.
“We need to make sure the airport’s capacity will cater for all the users’ needs and not just freight,” he said.
“We are starting to pull all kinds of bits and pieces together to strengthen our case,” Mr Sommerlad said. The NSW government though said it had not received any application for funding for the airport plan from Tamworth.
An ABARES conference was told Australia must build more international airports in regional areas. It was not acting fast enough to be a serious long-term contender in the Asian food sector, said Doug Ferguson, head of business services company KPMG’s international markets business.
“Our proximity to Asian markets is a clear competitive advantage, however, we need to quite urgently fix some of our own supply side issues by building greater production scale,” he said.
“Priorities include upgrading and building better regional transport and water infrastructure, and delivering more high quality, fresh food faster than our global competition.”
China’s burgeoning new “Belt and Road” initiative was also building trade, infrastructure and political ties with new food suppliers in Africa, Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Asia-Pacific region.