Australia’s regional airports now have another chance to apply for government investment for upgrades from a $100 million fund.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said round two of the ‘Regional Airports Program’ would open from 3 November 2020 to 15 December 2020. It follows the initial round allocating $41.2 million to 61 regional airports earlier this year.
The larger $100 million package was announced during 2019’s budget, but has taken on increased importance as the country recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.
“Our commitment of $100 million over four years from 2019-2020 to 2022-23 will ensure the owners and operators of regional airports can deliver improved safety and capability, including upgraded runways, taxiways, as well as new fencing, navigational aids and lighting,” said the Deputy PM.
AAA chief executive James Goodwin said on Monday, “This program will help regional airports deliver projects which create long-term benefits, so communities can continue to connect to work, essential services, family and friends no matter where they live.
“Regional Airports will be able to take advantage of fewer aircraft landing to start work on critical projects such as runway upgrades, taxiway improvements, new fencing and lighting to make air travel safer and more reliable.
“Due to strong advocacy by the AAA, the federal government has changed the program guidelines so that local government and Indigenous corporations with projects of $300,000 or less will be fully-funded by government rather than split 50:50.”
Earlier this year, Australian Aviation reported how Ballarat, Merimbula and Whyalla were among 61 regional airports to share $41 million in funding.
The varied list of projects included:
- 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; and
- $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. These were extended in advance of this year’s federal budget.
Previously, 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.
This year’s budget contained no major new packages of help for the aviation industry, though the government has pledged to allocate $230 million to Tourism Australia to encourage domestic travel and poured $250 million into a ‘Regional Tourism Recovery Package’.