The Australian Local Government Association (AGLA) is the latest organisation to join forces with the Australian Airports Association (AAA) in campaigning for increased funding for regional airports.
Launched in October 2017, the AAA’s “Protect Regional Airports” campaign calls for a broadening of government support to fund improvements to regional airstrips to the tune of $160 million over four years.
The Australian Logistics Council, Regional Aviation Association of Australia (RAAA) and Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) are also backers of the AAA’s campaign.
ALGA president David O’Loughlin said federal government funding was needed to support regional airports.
“Regional airports provide an essential service to our communities, and must be able to continue to serve the needs of local people safely and efficiently,” Cr O’Loughlin said in a statement on Monday.
“This can only be achieved by additional federal government funding to support our regional airports.
“We urge members of Parliament to ensure our regions aren’t forgotten in the upcoming budget process.”
Further, Cr O’Loughlin said many local councils were subsidising essential maintenance and upgrades at their regional airports and relying on ratepayer funds to offset the costs of operating these complex pieces of infrastructure.
The “Project Regional Airports” campaign is calling for the Regional Aviation Access Programme (RAAP) to be extended for a further four years, as well as the establishment of a new program to broaden the number of remote and regional airstrips eligible for government support.
Under the AAA proposal, the RAAP would be extended at $15 million a year for the next four years, while the proposed new airport grants program would fund regional airports (and not just remote airstrips) with $25 million a year for four years.
The AAA has called for the Commonwealth to contribute half the money while state and local governments to contribute the other half, with the funds used to address local challenges such as the lack of lighting, runway improvements and more essential animal fencing.
AAA chief executive Caroline Wilkie welcomed the ALGA’s support.
“Regional airports are the lifeblood of their communities and must be funded appropriately to ensure they continue to deliver essential access for people living and working in our regions,” Wilkie said.
“With many regional airports operated by local councils, we’re delighted to have ALGA’s support for this important campaign.
The RAAP is a government scheme that offers funding for upgrades to remote aerodromes (the Remote Access Upgrade Program, or RAU), inspection and related services at aerodromes in remote indigenous communities (Remote Aerodrome Inspections, or RAI), and subsidised flights to remote communities (the Remote Air Services Subsidy Scheme, or RASS).
The 2015/16 federal budget allocated $33.7 million to be spent over four years towards grants to regional airports for safety and access upgrades. The funding was generally provided on a matching co-funding basis with applicants.
Applications for the final round of remote airstrip upgrade funding closed in October 2017.