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Safe airstrips make safe communities

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Pormpuraaw's upgraded airstrip.
Pormpuraaw's upgraded airstrip.
21 Oct 2014

Residents of Pormpuraaw, 900 kilometres west of Cairns on the Gulf of Carpentaria, are resting easier, knowing their connection with the outside world is secure.

Pormpuraaw, like many remote communities around Australia, relies on its local airstrip for everything from food supply to emergency medical services and transporting locals for important cultural events. However, wet season floods have left the Pormpuraaw airstrip underwater and the roads impassable for days at a time, so the community realised action was required to ensure lives wouldn’t be in danger in the future.

Pormpuraaw Aboriginal Shire Council successfully applied for Australian Government funding through the Remote Airstrip Upgrade component of the Regional Aviation Access Programme for major improvements to its airstrip.

Edward Natera, Chief Executive Officer of the Pormpuraaw Aboriginal Shire Council, says the improvements, which included a major upgrade of its apron and taxiway areas, and resealing and line marking the runway, are vital for the community.

“Recent storms have damaged the airstrip tarmac, making it dangerous for planes to land and take off, so everyone was happy to hear the airstrip would be upgraded,” Edward said.

“During some floods the water levels have been so high we’ve had fish swimming over our tarmac. This upgrade is raising the level of the tarmac and having a better drainage system installed so planes can still land during floods,” Edward said.

On top of ensuring the Royal Flying Doctor Service can still pick up emergency medical cases, the new airstrip is also playing an important part in maintaining law and order throughout the Gulf of Carpentaria.

“The Air Force uses our airstrip, as does Customs, the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) and the Queensland Rural Fire Service,” Edward said.

“Pormpuraaw might only be seven hundred people but we are the eyes and ears for three hundred and sixty kilometres of coastline, looking for illegal fishing or any yachts in distress.

“Like many remote communities, we try to make a contribution to Australia, looking after our country, so locals are always on the lookout for suspicious behaviour. We are happy that the new airstrip means we can continue to play our part in making our country safe,” Edward said.

Find out more

All communities are different, which means we need flexible approaches for how governments and communities work together.

The Australian Government provides targeted support for aerodrome infrastructure and air services to remote areas where they are not commercially viable. This funding is provided through the Regional Aviation Access Programme.

On 15 September 2014, the Government announced that eligible scheduled passenger services to regional and remote communities can now receive assistance under this programme. 

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