Government announces new round of remote airstrip upgrades

A file image of an RFDS aircraft taking off from an unpaved runway. (RFDS)
A file image of an RFDS aircraft taking off from an unpaved runway. (RFDS)

Ninety-one remote airstrips around Australia have secured funding for upgrades such as runway improvements, installation of navigation aids and even the building of a camel proof fence.

Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester announced the recipients of the federal government’s latest round of the Remote Airstrip Upgrade Programme on Friday.

The 91 projects were spread out across five states – New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia – and the Northern Territory.

The total funding amount for this latest round was $11.86 million.

The cost of individual projects ranged from $4,793.86 to purchase spare items such as cones, cables and solar runway lights at Fregon aerodrome in the northern part of South Australia near the Northern Territory border, to $3 million for repairs to the airstrip, aerodrome works to improve all weather capability and pilot resting area and electrical and safety upgrades at Queensland’s Mornington Island in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Many airports that received funding approval were frequently used by the Royal Flying Doctor Service, which was the applicant for 42 of the 91 airports being upgraded.

Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester said the improvements would help the RFDS reach people in need.

“These vital infrastructure improvements, including new airport lighting, runway resealing and modern satellite-based instrument approaches, are essential to keeping the Royal Flying Doctor Service flying,” Chester said in a statement.

“The RFDS is a magnificent medical provider to remote communities across the nation and we are proud to be able to support their work by ensuring their operations can be conducted as safely as possible. The Australian Government clearly remains committed to improving services in regional and remote communities across Australia.”

Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia chief executive Martin Laverty said was pleased so many airports that it frequently flew to were slated for improvement.

“It’s common for emus or kangaroos to disrupt aircraft landings on unfenced airstrips during medical emergencies in remote areas. Night landings on some airstrips are also hindered where there is no lighting,” Laverty said.

“Commonwealth funding, and the terrific aviation planning relationship we have with Minister Chester and his departmental staff, means the Flying Doctor will be better able to deliver emergency medical care to injured or ill Australians across 91 frequently used airstrips.”

More broadly, Chester said airstrips were often the “only reliable means of transport for freight and urgent services” for many of Australia’s most remote communities.

“These upgrades will safeguard access to essential health care services including emergency medical evacuations, while also improving access to work and education opportunities,” Chester said.

“Having access to fresh food and water, and indeed access to communities hundreds of kilometres away, is an underappreciated fact in many cities, but for residents in remote communities it is essential.”

The full list of approved projects in this round of applications can be found on the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development website.

Comments

  1. Paul says

    I can only interpret from this that either all Victorian regional airstrips are in good condition and require no maintenance or upkeep, or Victoria doesn’t meet the criteria. There was nothing for Victoria in Round 3 either.

  2. KeithMcc says

    Ian,

    I agree. Libs are willing to splurge $200million on a marriage vote, but struggle to find $11.5 million for real things. Makes me wonder how the other $189 mill could be spent. Proper lights and sealed runways all over the place! But that wouldn’t get lots of headlines, just create jobs and safer travel for remote places, Clearly not worth doing.

  3. Peter says

    Fortunately we are not going to have a plebicite but I agree that $11.5 million is a paltry sum. If I lived in the RFDS service zone I would be pretty disappointed. Fences and hard pack (laterite) or sealed surfaces would be major improvements for these RFDS airstrips. Major rain events can currently make many of these strips inoperative until they are regraded.

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