The KwaZulu-Natal government has announced a multimillion-rand plan to consolidate its new King Shaka International Airport with a view to positioning it as a key driver of the province’s economy.

Delivering his 2012/13 R1.5 billion budget speech in the legislature in Pietermaritzburg on Tuesday, Economic Development and Tourism MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu said these plans would see the creation of a city around the new airport and Dube TradePort which would stretch from uMhlanga to Ballito.

“This new airport city will create a world-class physical and operational environment geared towards attracting trade, investment and infrastructure to the KZN economy.

“This will require mass investment by both government and the private sector, with government in the lead,” said Mabuyakhulu.

To drive this consolidation of the airport, a provincial task team has been established to facilitate an integrated and comprehensive strategy on an aerotropolis (airport city) in the province.

To kick-start this development, a new road is to be constructed, at a cost of R250 million, to link the TradePort to the Watson Highway.

“As a logistics hub, this is a critical requirement, as it ensures long-term connectivity to transport routes for businesses operating in the northern areas of the precinct.

“This road will also open up new property development opportunities within the Herwood precinct, targeting companies which are able to take advantage of the location and the logistics environment created,” he said.

Work on this road is scheduled to begin towards the end of June this year, for it to be opened in October 2013.

A new R35m sewer pipe was being constructed to create a permanent connection between the Dube TradePort and the Tongaat regional sewerage works.

Furthermore, Dube TradePort is pursuing investment in the highly strategic aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul business areas.

“The objective is to position the Dube TradePort as the hub for aircraft maintenance in Africa. The site will be purpose-designed and have direct runway access for aircraft, making it the most operationally and functionally advanced aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul facility on the continent,” said Mabuyakhulu.

The earthworks for this infrastructure, which will cost R120m, have begun and would be completed by May 2013. The development will boast aircraft hangars, support buildings and bulk infrastructure. The maintenance, repair and overhaul facility is to be operational in mid-2014.

However, Mabuyakhulu said the long-term success of the aerotropolis would depend on far greater levels of investment in transport connectivity.

“Strong and sustainable development corridors must be established to link the Dube TradePort to eThekwini in the south and Ballito in the north. To achieve this, the Dube TradePort city assessed the feasibility of building a north to south light rail link.

“As a result of this investigation, a viable physical route has been identified which will ultimately link Ballito to Moses Mabhida Stadium.” - The Mercury