State Government wants to build second Dirk Hartog Island airstrip

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Tom ZaunmayrMidwest Times
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The State Government wants to build a second runway on Dirk Hartog Island.
Camera IconThe State Government wants to build a second runway on Dirk Hartog Island. Credit: Tom Zaunmayr.

Questions have been raised about the State Government’s plan to construct a second airstrip within an hour’s travel of an existing runway on one of WA’s great wilderness islands.

A Department of Biodiversity, Conservations and Attractions tender was released in January for a new runway on Dirk Hartog Island to reduce travel times to its Herald Bay outpost.

The site in question is a sink-hole-prone claypan which a 2016 engineering report found. While the lake rarely floods, it would be rendered useless if 10mm of rain fell in a day.

Dirk Hartog Island Homestead owner Kieran Wardle said the money would be better spent on improving the existing runway, built on a similar surface.

“As soon as you get a bit of rain on it, it gets very slippery, and if you get considerable rain you just can’t land,” he said.

“The new location they are proposing requires a considerable amount of work to get an airstrip developed.

“They could just spend that money to upgrade the one we have now and make it more user-friendly during times of rain.”

VideoA massive swell off Western Australia has resulted in this huge blowhole at Dirk Hartog Island. Check out how small the cars are next to it.

Dirk Hartog’s existing runway is a 40-minute drive from the island’s Parks and Wildlife outpost and 10 minutes from the island’s main tourism precinct. The new runway would flip this around.

A DBCA spokeswoman said the drive between the present airstrip and Herald Bay presented distance and cost challenges.

“This alternative airstrip would be accessible to tourism operators and potentially create new tourism opportunities on Dirk Hartog Island,” she said.

“It is substantially closer to tourist sites in the northern part of the island and has the potential to offer improved visitor access, services and opportunities to this part of the island.

“The site may be subject to periodic flooding; however, there was no recommendation against progressing with the chosen site.”

The spokeswoman said the new airstrip would speed up trans-location of fauna to most of the island and evacuation of personnel in the event of an emergency.

Mr Wardle said any move to construct a Royal Flying Doctor Service-compatible strip should prioritise tourists.

“Ninety per cent of tourists are based down at the south end of the island,” he said.

“Surely (DBCA) staff would be trained well enough to deal with emergency situations, whereas you get a young family and someone gets injured, you want to be able to get them off the island as quickly as possible.

“We only need 200 more metres on the existing runway which is there, it is all on a birrida, whereas for the strip up north they would have to knock over a fair bit of vegetation.”

Mr Wardle said the cost of maintaining two airstrips could lead to the department canning maintenance of the original one.

The DBCA said this would not happen.

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