THE Government this week signed a co-funding agreement with New Zealand to give the runway at Munda Airport an international upgrade.
A statement from the New Zealand High Commission in Honiara said currently, all international flights into Solomon Islands are required to land at Henderson Airport – the country’s only International airport.
“This means that all flights into the country need to carry enough aviation fuel to make a return trip home, in case they can’t touch down due to unforeseen circumstances, such as bad weather,” the statement said.
“This restricts passenger numbers and the cargo weight of flights from Australia, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Fiji, driving up the cost of deliveries and travel for businesses and consumers,” it added.
“The planned upgrades at Munda Airport will give the runway an ’emergency alternative’ status, which means that international flights that are unable to land at Henderson Airport can be diverted to Munda airport, which is approximately 30 minutes away by plane.
“This allows planes to carry less fuel and gives more space for passengers and cargo.
“The improvements will help to bring a range of benefits to the people and the government of Solomon Islands including: increased passenger movements, increased tourism to Western Province, improved safety for aircraft, opportunities to expand services in Munda to international flights, increased aviation freight and further government revenue from the aviation sector.”
The statement said funding will cover the infrastructure necessary for Munda Airport runway to be certified by the Civil Aviation Authority of Solomon Islands as an ’emergency alternate status’ runway.
“Civil works include the installation of airfield ground lighting and navigation aids, perimeter security fencing, an airport rescue and firefighting facility and two fire trucks.
“The cost of civil works is estimated at $62 million of which New Zealand will contribute up to $47 million and Solomon Islands $15 million.”
Project completion is expected in May 2017.
AECOM New Zealand Ltd has been contracted to provide construction management and Engineer services to the project.
“This week’s signing ceremony represented a significant milestone in Solomon Islands aviation history and the development relationship between New Zealand and Solomon Islands.
“The project builds on New Zealand’s support to redevelop the runway at Munda Airport, the Noro to Munda road and Nusa Tupe runway, which concluded in 2014.
“The New Zealand Government through its High Commission in Honiara is looking forward to working in close partnership with the Ministries of Finance, Infrastructure, Aviation and the Civil Aviation Authority to successfully deliver this project,” the statement said.