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Residents get vital access back as Vanuatu airport to reopen

Wednesday 29 June 2022 | Written by RNZ | Published in Regional, Vanuatu

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Residents get vital access back as Vanuatu airport to reopen
Air Vanuatu ATR 42 aircraft (now retired) at Bauerfield International Airport, Port Vila. Photo: Wikipedia

Flights to Lajmoli Airport in the Vanuatu island of Espiritu Santo will resume after 14 years.

The airport was closed after a plane crash in 2008 that resulted in one death and others being injured.

Since then residents have endured high land and sea transport costs to access essential services in Luganville town.

Secretary-General of the Sanma Provincial Government Council (SPGC), Albert Ruddley, said the reopening of the airport will enable cheaper transport, and quicker responses to emergency cases.

He said the flights will also have an economic spin-off as it will allow suppliers of tobacco, mats, honey, kava and seafood access to Luganville markets.

The Daily Post reports it costs around VT30,000 ($US255) to travel from Northwest and West Coast to Tassiriki in south Santo by boat and another VT16,000 ($US136) from Tassiriki to Luganville by truck, one way.

When the airport was operational, people were paying less.

Ruddley and the President of Sanma Province were part of the delegation that accompanied the Acting Minister of Infrastructure, Joshua Pikioune, to north-west Santo for the airport reopening.

Representatives from the Civil Aviation Authority of Vanuatu and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Public Utilities were also part of the delegation.

Ruddley said SPGC, together with the Northwest Santo Area Council, will be taking care of the airport clearance until a contractor is appointed for it.

Clearance of the airport enabling a successful air taxi flight test during the reopening was funded by SPGC with support from the community.

The Ministry of Infrastructure and Public Utilities says the Acting Minister has indicated the possibility to upgrade the airport with tarseal when funding is available.

Following the airport reopening the government will begin the acquisition of land process.