Canberra's new direct international flights will unlock freight opportunities for the Canberra region and help diversify the local economy, Chief Minister Andrew Barr told a conference on Friday.
The government will release a new Canberra region freight hub strategy next month as part of plans to use international flights to transport goods from the region around the world. The announcement came in the same week as Singapore Airlines hosted travel agents and other tourism representatives at a special event to celebrate new direct flights to Canberra and Wellington, New Zealand.
Mr Barr told the Canberra Region International Freight Symposium event at Canberra Airport that the government's goals for regional development included the construction of key infrastructure and improved efficiency for federal government, business and public service travel.
The new strategy will seek to build upon investments made by the government including the Majura Parkway and see benefits to a group of Canberra regional councils cooperating on tourism and business efforts.
Freight would help slow the economic impact of federal job cuts. Mr Barr said figures showed in November 2013, public administration had made up 34 per cent of all ACT employment but cuts and hiring freezes had seen that number fall to 28 per cent in November 2015.
"I have seen firsthand how many of these small businesses are capturing the innovation of many Canberrans, and have developed products that have a worldwide application," Mr Barr told the event.
"I have also seen how the lack of international connectivity and freight services has hampered the further development of these businesses. That's why the announcement of international flights was such a significant moment for our region. If we can now couple this with an expanded freight service in the ACT, then the opportunities grow further."
Mr Barr said more than 12 million tonnes of freight comes into the ACT every year, with forecasts of an almost doubling in growth by 2030.
Early modelling of a scenario in which Canberra catered for the air freight needs of regional producers who currently use other airports shows a boost to the ACT and NSW gross state product of $11.9 million annually, potentially creating around 60 new jobs.
Outgoing federal Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb addressed the event, telling participants that movement goods and people from Australian cities to the world was fundamental to economic growth.
"When you enhance connectivity, in particular aviation links, you inevitably also boost trade and investment," he said.
"In this respect it's terrific to see what's happening at Canberra Airport.
"As the only 747-capable, curfew-free airport between Brisbane and Melbourne, Canberra is an increasingly attractive alternative to sending freight from Sydney. In terms of the freight movements of goods and produce, recent experience shows how improved connectivity increases exports."
Singapore Airlines' new flights to Singapore and Wellington will start in September.
Flights from Singapore will arrive in Canberra on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays at 8.35am. Passengers travelling on to the New Zealand capital will depart from Canberra at 9.50am.
In the other direction, flights from Wellington will arrive at Canberra Airport on the same days at 10.05pm and departing for Singapore at 11.30pm.