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Newcastle races to avoid 20-year wait to fly long-haul

written by Adam Thorn | October 8, 2020

Newcastle Airport needs to secure $65 million by early next year to upgrade its runway – or face waiting another 20 years for the next chance to operate flights further afield than New Zealand.

The airport missed out on securing government help in this week’s federal budget but has to get an alternative deal across the line in the next few months so its work can coincide with a separate upgrade being carried out by the RAAF, which owns and manages the strip.

Should the deadline be missed, Newcastle would likely have to wait until the next RAAF upgrade in circa 2040.

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Newcastle predicts the project would generate 4,400 full-time jobs and allow it to accommodate long-range, wide-bodied planes that can fly further afield than Australia or New Zealand.

Despite the budget snub, the business said it remains “hopeful” it would be able to access funding from a larger pool of money earmarked for airport infrastructure.

“I have a sense of confidence that the government has a positive vision for our region, which was demonstrated by the Prime Minister’s recent visit,” said chief executive Dr Peter Cock. “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.

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“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.

“Doing so will ultimately add $12 billion to the regional economy and provide 4,000 full-time jobs. That is a huge amount of potential that is currently untapped.”

The project would cost $65 million in addition to the $115 million upgrade that the Department of Defence is undertaking, and would start work in June 2021 for completion in November 2022.

The news comes a month after Newcastle Airport said it would have no choice but to stand down workers – despite the business not being eligible to receive and pass on JobKeeper payments.

Australian Aviation understands the company can’t claim for the handout because of its local government ownership structure, which mirrors a similar situation faced by Victoria’s busiest regional airport, Mildura.

Dr Cock said then, “This is something we hoped we would never need to consider, however, the ongoing economic impact of closed borders has made our situation untenable.”

The JobKeeper package was introduced to provide coronavirus-effected business with an initial $1,500 per employee, per fortnight.

Companies are then legally obliged to pass that payment onto workers in a bid to keep the economy active during the pandemic. However, the scheme has proved problematic for much of the aviation industry.

Many airport workers, such as those at Newcastle, are locked out of the financial package because their firms are council-owned; while staff at dnata were similarly told they were no longer eligible because their company is owned by a foreign government.

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5 Comments

  • Craigy

    says:

    It would be nice if the article explained exactly what upgrade on top of that being done by defence was needed. All I get from the article is they need 65 million for something.

  • AgentGerko

    says:

    Newcastle is never going to need international flights other than a few shorthauls to maybe NZ or Bali, which can easily be handled by A320s and 737s. The population would not support larger widebody services and the NSW govt is going to have its work cut out trying to get enough services to make Badgerys Creek viable, without having another international gateway 100kms north.

  • Noodles

    says:

    Why aren’t “larger” regional airports considered for Federal monies. It might have to do with ineffective Local members of Parliaments (NSW& Federal) being on the wrong side of the Houses. If only we could make Newcastle, Shortland, Port Stephens and others become “marginal” seats across all elections.

  • Dave

    says:

    This is such a shame. Newcastle airport could have been setup as the economic hub for Newcastle, Port Stephens and the Hunter Valley with growing connections and the new business parks in the vicinity. Who knows, even high speed rail between Sydney and Newcastle along with the airport upgrades could have been a better option than Sydney’s second airport. Having worked at NTL airport, I am truly disappointed the government has overlooked this funding opportunity that would have connected this area with so much more of the world.

  • Dennis Hume

    says:

    I agree with Craigy – What are we talking about?

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