WITH an election in the air, it was hardly surprising to see a record number of attendees at the Tomaree Business Chamber breakfast held at the Ramada Shoal Bay on 10 August.
Among the throng of early morning risers were councillors Sally Dover, John Nell and Steve Tucker, plus East Ward aspirants Ryan Palmer and Jaimie Abbott. Also in attendance were former mayors Bob Westbury and Ron Swan.
But politicians were forced to take a backseat as the main speakers Andrew Lazarus, new owner of the iconic Shoal Bay Country Club, and Peter Cock, Newcastle Airport CEO, held centre stage.
Mr Lazarus outlined his plans for a $6 million renovation of the ever changing venue that has stood on the Shoal Bay Road site since 1934.
“The concept involves retaining the history and tradition of the venue while internally recreating the decor of its heyday dating back to the 1950s,” Mr Lazarus said.
“It will have a modern, yet old world charm.
“We will also be focusing on food and families with more kids activities available, in addition to increasing the major event and conference aspects.”
Mr Lazarus said that most of the renovations were expected to be completed by 15 December.
In his address, the airport’s Mr Cock was equally enthusiastic about both the short and long term futures of the multi-award winning airport, which shares its runway with the neighbouring RAAF Base.
Currently servicing eight domestic routes with five airlines, Mr Cock said plans were in place to expand the destination points interstate and internationally.
“On the international stage our 20-year plan is to have direct flights to cities such as Auckland and Singapore,” he said.
“We also believe that we can continue to co-exist with the RAAF Base and in fact we see a massive boost to the local economy in terms of jobs and investment once the F-35s arrive in late 2018.”
“It is not unreasonable to think that in our grandchildren’s time we would have between five and 10 million passengers passing through Newcastle Airport.”
Other areas of growth include the vast Williamtown Aerospace precinct and access to airline freight for export and import purposes.
“These are all future plans, but right now we would like the people of Port Stephens, who are essentially part owners of the airport, to consider both the cost and time benefits of flying out of Newcastle to cities such as Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne in preference to driving,” he added.
By Charlie ELIAS