NARRANDERA-Leeton Airport is increasingly likely to take a vital place in southern NSW and northern Victoria’s agricultural supply chain to high-end Asian export markets.
John Wagner, one of the principals of Wagners, the owner of Toowoomba’s Wellcamp Airport, last week told The Land due diligence was being undertaken to make Narrandera-Leeton Airport a feeder port to Wellcamp.
He said provided producers “came on board” the project was promising.
Narrandera Mayor Neville Kschenka said council was working on the project and was “about to begin due diligence” under Mr Wagner’s guidance.
“It really is early days,” Mr Kschenka said.
He reckoned the project had legs “we just don’t know what the legs are going to look like yet.
“We don’t want to send a message that it could happen tomorrow.”
Mr Kschenka said the council was looking at all options to improve its place in the supply chain, including the airport project, road and rail.
He said decentralisation, which really meant centralisation to towns such as Wagga Wagga, Albury and Griffith, had meant major infrastructure had been ignored in his local government area for a long time.
Council was pushing the restablishment of the Narrandera to Tocumwal rail line that was shut down in 1988.
“Ideally we’d like to have 25 tonnes to the axle and standard-gauge lines all the way to Melbourne’s port,” he said.
The potential to service a rapidly growing Asian middle class would demand extra groundwork to service Narrandera-Leeton Airport.
Agribusiness Regional Development Association director Daryl Young said an holistic plan was needed to make the proposal work and a more entrepreneurial approach from government would help.
He said a hub-and-spoke approach would be needed to development at Narrandera, which would inevitably demand road and rail works.
“In saying that, it’s nothing more than a logistics position, similar to say where Amazon (the global online retailer) is at, that it can deliver on a ‘timely basis’, which at an intercontinental level is 24 hours,” he said.
Mr Young said regional outposts would become increasingly better serviced as technology was embraced and pilotless aircraft became more common.
“That’s a way to really cut costs because you don’t have a pilot and you can de-pressurise the aircraft, essentially a drone ferrying products to your main export base,” he said.
Griffith Business Chamber president Paul Pierotti welcomed the news, yet said there was a long way to go.
Upbeat about the prospects for producers seeking to access ultra-premium markets, he said they could be looking at better margins than ever before received.