An end to flights between Merimbula and Sydney, as has been forewarned by Regional Express (Rex), has the potential to devastate the region.
The airline company recently attacked Bega Valley Shire Council’s plans to increase the length of the runway at the airport, saying any associated increased costs could mean the end of multiple daily services between Merimbula and the state capital, if not the entire service.
This connection is a vital link not just for tourism and business but also health, when patients need quick trips to city facilities. Council has said community feedback over the deregulation of the Merimbula to Sydney air route was clear in that people were looking for greater choice and improved access.
From an individual perspective, it is a hard line to walk between ensuring flights to our area continue by paying high costs instead of driving or taking public transport into the cities.
On Monday, Rex’s cheapest return airfare from Merimbula to Sydney over the first two days in March was $450, with the most expensive $890. Return flights between Merimbula and Melbourne at the same time ranged from $430 to $938.
While of course different costs apply to different routes and there are many factors that go in to determining the price of a flight, according to Skyscanner there are return tickets from Sydney to Bali at the start of March for $620.
With high costs per kilometre of plane travel between Merimbula and Sydney, perhaps this could be why families from the city decide to go for a holiday overseas to a country such as Bali, instead of bringing their money to the Far South Coast where it benefits the local tourism industry.
Another problem relating to the issues with Merimbula Airport is global warming.
One of the consequences of a warming climate is the melting of the world’s poles, with sea ice now at record low levels at both Antarctica and the Arctic.
The Surging Seas Risk Zone Map by US-based Climate Central shows areas vulnerable to flooding from sea level rise, and one place that is predicted to go partly underwater is the Merimbula Airport.
The seas may not rise for another 50 years, but should $7.8million still be spent on the airport redevelopment?
And while not many would deny the terminal is in real need of a facelift, is money for the runway extension necessary?