Minister Leonard said upgrading of the Misima Airport is a vital infrastructure project to return and increase commercial flights to Misima.
He said the upgrade support service delivery, unlock economic opportunities, and provide fast and safe travel in the District.
PNG Air which is the only airline which services Misima ceased all flights on January 18th due to the poor conditions of the Bwagaoia runway.
In a statement PNG Air said until such time when the runway is in compliance with Civil Aviation regulations, flights are cancelled.
The Bwagoia Runway which has total length of 1, 200 metres only recently had 960 metres of the runway maintained when the Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) expired. However flights have not resumed.
“K5 million is sufficient for us to upgrade it, even to have it concreted so that it stays for a long time, rather than have a bear soil or ground surface.
“I want to make sure that we concrete the airport runway because the bulk of the work has already been done. We just need to do slight grader role and it will be completed. The Major work will be consumed by the drainage system. Because of lack of a good drainage system, water is always there on the surface of the runway and that is what allows the growth of algae and makes it slippery,” said Minister Leonard.
He said he will also approach Civil Aviation Minister, Sekie Agisa, for the Airport to be included under the Civil Aviation Development Investment Program (CADIP).
“I was told that we were late in submitting our interest to cover Misima. But for me it’s not too late. I will approach the current Minister, Sekie Agisa, to allow for my request that they go and see the Misima Airport be included in the CADIP Program so that we can do proper upgrading, sealing and even the construction of the terminal area.”
The Minister said priority for the Airport Upgrade is to ensure services are delivered in the District.
“The airstrip serves a very important purpose. That is an entry and exit points whether it’s for service, delivery, for passengers, for health and law and order, and whatever it is, the airport is a key enabler.”
the upgraded airport will ensure locals and Fly-In Fly-Out (FIFO) workers avoid sea travel which can be dangerous.
“Most of our ex-mine workers from Misima are working abroad. They fly in and now they have to disembark in Alotau and hop on a boat to come to Misima and return on the boat to Alotau to board the flight. And that is causing a lot of anxiety or unnecessary delay.
“All of our people are scared of sea travel because of sea piracy. So, the airport is very important we need to open.
The airport facelift will also complement resource activities earmarked for the Maritime District such as a potential Misima Mine reopening, the Woodlark Mine, and several exploration sites.
“My District is so fortunate that we have some key economic projects, not only to the District but to the entire country. And these are gold mine projects,” said the Minister.
He added “So (Misima Airport) serves a very fundamental role in improving and developing and enhancing our economic potential for the District.”
The Minister Lalso intends to unlock the tourism potential of the District.
“We are already discussing about the potential of the district, where we can bring in cruise ships into the district and even in Milne Bay. So the airport serves that very important and fundamental enabler to allow tourists to come in and out.”
Misima Airport is the only active aerodrome in the Samarai-Murua District.