NEWCASTLE Airport has reacted with cautious optimism in the absence of a Federal Government budget announcement regarding an upgrade to the runway it accesses from RAAF Base Williamtown.
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Whilst there was no specific funding announced for the project, there was a significant funding pool designated for regional airports.
The upgrade, which needs to be delivered in conjunction with scheduled Defence maintenance work being carried out next year, would see the runway upgraded to Code E status.
This would allow wide-bodied, long-haul aircraft to access the airport, connecting the region and northern NSW to the rest of the world.
Speaking after the budget announcement, Newcastle Airport CEO Dr Peter Cock said he remained hopeful the airport would be able to access some of the funding earmarked in the budget for airport infrastructure.
“I remain confident that the Federal Government understands the importance of this project for the region and the nation,” he said.
“Upgrading this runway will provide the confidence and hope at a time that it is most needed. More importantly, it will deliver very tangible benefits.
“From local tourism operators and hospitality owners to agricultural producers and freight and logistics providers, this project will drive significant jobs and huge economic return well into the future.
Mr Cock said he felt confident the government had a positive vision for the Hunter region.
“Ours is the largest regional economy in Australia and the airport is ready to step up and play a key role in ensuring it remains so.
“Importantly the window of opportunity for this upgrade is now. The funding needs to be confirmed before the next budget cycle, with a drop-dead date in the first quarter of next year.
“With that in mind, we will be working hard and engaging with other regional leaders to put together a compelling case as to why this project should be top on the list of projects to be funded.
Mr Cock said the project would add $12billion to the regional economy and provide 4,000 full time jobs.
The project, which would cost $65million in addition to the $115million upgrade that Defence is undertaking, is due to commence in June 2021 and would be completed in November 2022.