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Minister Wacik Lobbies for North Bali Airport

Suggesting There May be Little Alternative, Jero Wacik Urges Serious Consideration for a New Airport in North Bali.

(1/4/2009) Radar Bali reports that there are two schools of thoughts are forming on the future of Bali's international airport. One, led by Bali's Governor Made Mangku Pastika, seeks to expand the current airport at Tuban. The other option being championed by Indonesia's Minister of Culture and Tourism, Jero Wacik, favors building a new airport in Bali's north.

Driving the Minister's argument are the many and some would suggest impossible, impediments entailed in trying to expand the current airport. Rather than deal with the issues of land availability, environmental opposition and engineering challenges engendered by trying to extend and widen the current runway - Minister Wacik has turned his focus to promoting the creation of a modern new airport in the far north of the Island.

Saying that a North Bali airport would automatically address the uneven economic development between the Island's North and South, Wacik makes the practical argument: "Bali needs a large infrastructure. If now, the Ngurah Rai Airport is already inadequate, what's going to happen in 20 years when clearly it will be unable to accommodate domestic and international flights."

As a short term step, Wacik is calling for a review of Bali's current airport, determining finally if it can be widened or lengthened while also looking at the option of operating two airports in Bali.

Wacik told the press that the people of Bali must remain flexible in their thinking as regards meeting the need for an airport. If continuing problems with the current airport regarding the inability to extend the western end of the runway into the ocean or the eastern end into the environmentally sensitive mangrove reserve cannot be resolved, Wacik insists the option of a new airport must then be seriously considered. This same flexibility of approach should also allow the consideration of the possibility of Bali operating two airports, with Wacik pointing to the island nation of Singapore that manages to sustains three airports.

The Minister also warns that the planning and building of a new airport in Bali would require a time frame of 5-10 years to complete. While insisting he is neutral on where a new airport in Bali might be located, Wacik says Gianyar would not work because it is too close to the current airport, prompting him to propose that Bali's far north of Buleleng may be the most appropriate site for a future airport.

Talking to the press and using his extended arms to illustrate a landing aircraft, Wacik said his preliminary thoughts suggest that the village of Bungkulan, Kubutambagan would be well-suited for a large airport facility.

Wacik is optimistic that an airport in North Bali would support Bali's tourism and spread the economic benefits of tourism to areas of Bali where unemployment and drop-out rates are high. Challenging his fellow Balinese, Wacik said: "If your thinking is stagnant and maintains expansion of the airport can't be done; or you can't be bothered with considering expanding the present airport; or you argue the current airport is sufficient well, so be it! But with the single stipulation that you should stop having more children. More people need more employment opportunities. If your thinking is stagnant, where are these kids going to find employment?"

Meanwhile, a recent "open house" meeting conducted by Governor Mangku Pastika, there was wide-spread support from those wishing to expand the current airport at Ngurah Rai Airport.