S.Atlantic : A New Airport Brings Bright Prospects to St Helena's Future
Submitted by SARTMA.com (Public Relations Information Office) 22.07.2010 (Article Archived on 05.08.2010)
The long and agonising wait for the airport project to begin is now over for the people of St Helena.
THE FUTURE OF ST.HELENA
Today is an historic day for St.Helena. Many of my predecessors would have been delighted to be able to issue this statement.
For the past four years and more we have been through many ups and downs as far as our projected airport is concerned. There have been days of encouragement and times of disappointment. The uncertainty has had an impact on our whole society.
However the UK now has a new government and there are those in power who have been aware of our access issue for some time. They have lost no time in making a decision.
This island is not short on cynicism but I believe that we would be wrong to view this statement as heralding yet more uncertainty. Think about it for a moment:
The coalition has no baggage of past promises and has the freedom to act knowing that it must get its early decisions right. That indicates a real conviction and good business sense behind the statement. Of course it is the right thing to invest now in order to save later, but it is often hard to do so.
With the international recession driving nearly all financial decisions, there is every reason to take the easy option of having a negative view of a far away investment like this. There is an obvious rationale behind arguing for more delay, but thankfully that has been avoided, and
It is a fact that there have been significant technological improvements since the Atkins study that should now enable an equally effective but rather cheaper design to be agreed.
It is self evident that today’s statement by the Secretary of State will enliven our economy by providing a much needed confidence in the long term future of this island.
I know that many people will be wondering what happens next. In many ways it is too early to say, and I cannot predict when the first sod will be cut. As it is Prosperous Bay Plain, maybe I should say “the first bucket load of arid rubble lifted”! But I do know that this project already has a momentum and the caveats surrounding the decision are neither arduous nor time consuming.
It is useful to speculate on what change has already been set in motion by today’s statement. Among my immediate thoughts are the following:
St.Helena has just ceased to be regarded as a rather sleepy and obscure place where Napoleon was the only thing to happen. This is now a place where something is happening,
Investment decisions can be made with more confidence, land and property values look certain to increase,
Although Saints will have priority, there is bound to be an influx of skilled workers,
More to the point, there will be pressure on the jobs market meaning enhanced reward for those who are prepared to use their skills to the full,
Those who have invested in our society, whether in hotels, quarries, agriculture, retailing or a host of other occupations, will suddenly be able to envisage growth both as the airport is being built and as the tourism sector begins to grow,
It is very good news for our young people. The youngest Saints, when they are mature, will hardly be able to remember a time when the island was without air access. Suddenly career opportunities open up here at home for those studying at present,
There will be many attractive jobs - being an air traffic controller is very lucrative. It is an international job with a salary of over £100,000. The training has been said to take 5 years – so school leavers should be thinking about that kind of thing right now.
This is excellent news for Saints abroad and families that are divided. When the airport is completed, getting home will take hours rather than days and career prospects here will have improved enormously,
It is not just the youth that can benefit. Consider the enhanced speed of medical evacuation and the transport of samples.
The list of possible benefits for us here is endless, it will affect us all.
I saw a wonderful rainbow as I came down through Half Tree Hollow this morning. Although it has religious significance, mythically it has a pot of gold at the end. Well, our airport is no longer just a myth, and the whole point of it is that now we have the very real prospect of grasping that pot of gold - self sustainability within our own lifetimes – actually paying our way in the world.
In short – we can begin to dream and plan once again.
It almost sounds too good to be true. But the benefits cannot be gained without hard work and dedication on the part of all of us. One of the conditions is that we must build an economy that is not only open to external investment, but will be appreciated internationally as being so. I have every confidence that your Council has both the ability and the desire to deliver exactly that.
This does not mean that we will not be pushing just as hard for much more satisfactory landing arrangements for ships. Indeed we will obviously need to bring in most of our freight by sea even when an airport is completed. Nor does it mean the end of passenger access by sea as I believe that the demand for that could well increase as a result of more flexible travel being possible.
Underlying all the excitement and planning is the fundamental issue that must always be in our minds - we do not want to spoil what we have now. Our heritage must be preserved. The very economic success that we are planning depends heavily on our culture and environment being maintained.
I cannot end this historic statement without paying tribute to the many people who have fought hard for this decision to be positive: our supporters in parliament – Lord Jones of Cheltenham and Bob Russell, Kedell Worboys in our London office, Sharon Wainwright both here and in the UK, Nigel Kirby of DFID, and the late Clive Warren and Dorothy who played such a large part in the response to the consultation process. There are many more that deserve our gratitude and in longer time I am sure we will want to show it.
An exciting future now beckons, so we will start work now to make sure it comes to pass.
22nd July 2010