Ballarat, Merimbula and Whyalla are among 60 regional airports to share $41 million in funding for upgrades under a new federal government initiative.
The grants, which can be viewed in full here, are part of a larger $100 million package announced during last year’s budget, but which now take on increased importance as the country recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.
Regional airports have been particularly hard hit as the federal government has yet to announce any specific support for them, unlike airlines which have benefited from underwritten routes and a reduction in fees and levies.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said, “We are investing $100 million over four years from 2019-20 to 2022-23 to help owners of regional airports right across Australia deliver safer runways, taxiways and other safety upgrades such as new fencing and safety equipment.”
The varied list of projects include:
- A $5 million runway upgrade at Ballarat Airport in Victoria
- $4.5 million for runway works at Merimbula Airport in NSW
- $2.45 million for runway and taxiway works at Whyalla Airport in South Australia
- $1.73 million for a range of work at Gladstone Airport in Queensland
- $1.66 million for resurfacing works at Albany Airport in Western Australia
Unlike airports, airlines have received a host of packages to help them navigate the COVID-19 downturn.
Smaller regional carriers have enjoyed a $298 million package to underwrite essential routes; while larger airlines benefited from a waiver of fees and levies worth up to $715 million alongside a government-backed $165 million minimum domestic network.
Last month, Mildura Airport chairman Peter O’Donnell warned many smaller airports would struggle to survive without specific coronavirus help.
“We’ll get through this, but my concern is that the regional networks will be decimated because airports will be fundamentally without funds or bankrupted,” O’Donnell said.
Many smaller airports, such as Mildura, are ineligible to pay their staff JobKeeper because they are technically owned by the council, which excludes them from the program.