Durban - Moves are afoot to establish a R2 billion technology park around the burgeoning Pietermaritzburg Airport that would target the aviation and manufacturing industries.
The project is being spearheaded by the Msunduzi Municipality, with support from the KZN Treasury, and is in its early development phase.
It is one of four “technology parks” proposed for KZN economic nodes outside the Durban metro, which also include Richards Bay, Newcastle and Port Shepstone.
Clive Coetzee, the KZN Treasury’s general manager for infrastructure management and economic services, said the technology parks were part of the list of projects presented by the municipalities to potential investors at the KZN Funding Fair. This was hosted by the Treasury and professional services firm Deloitte earlier this year.
The Pietermaritzburg technology park is seen as a strong contender for investment due to its location near one of the fastest-growing regional airports in South Africa and the KZN capital’s being home to some of the top schools and major engineering and metal fabrication companies.
The provincial Treasury has invested more than R40 million in upgrades at the airport.
The runway has been resurfaced and new navigational equipment installed. The terminal is now getting a makeover.
David Gengan, Msunduzi Municipality’s manager for investment promotion, said, as part of the plan, they were targeting more than R2bn in private sector and government investment in the technology park, which would cover about 240 hectares.
The deputy municipal manager for economic development, Ray Ngcobo, said the project had “tremendous potential” and was in line with the Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI) industrial and technology park strategy.
“The municipality owns the airport and land surrounding the airport, but the University of KZN also owns a large tract of farmland nearby. We are engaging with them to buy the land, which will from part of our plan to develop the technology park,” he said.
“We are taking a long-term view on the airport and its development. We want to expand capacity and service to more (places) than just Joburg. We want air routes to other destinations, such as Cape Town.
“The idea is to develop an aviation industry hub here. We are looking to lure some players from Durban’s Virginia Airport, but want to finalise our plan before presenting it to them,” he said.
Coetzee said they wanted the technology park to become home to an “aviation cluster” targeting engineering and manufacturing companies. This was owing to its strong base of engineering, tooling and vehicle component manufacturing companies.
The Treasury’s plan was for each technology park to focus on a particular industry.
“We have spoken to the hi-tech Durban-based light aircraft engine designer and start-up manufacturer Adept Airmotive about moving its operation from Virginia Airport to the Pietermaritzburg Airport precinct. We want to establish a ‘green’ aviation cluster in the planned Pietermaritzburg technology park.”
Coetzee said he did not think other aviation players such as flight schools and helicopter companies would consider moving from Virginia to Pietermaritzburg. He said the city needed to create the right environment to attract investors and there was a huge demand for more hangars.
Ngcobo said Msunduzi was working on an incentives programme, such as lower municipal costs, to attract investors.
Coetzee said Pietermaritzburg Airport had doubled its passenger numbers from about 50 000 three years ago to 100 000.