Newcastle Airport is in talks with the NSW government to secure funding for its ‘race against time’ international runway upgrade, Australian Aviation can reveal.
The news comes shortly after Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said she was “working very closely” with the airport and reiterated the federal government would follow through on its separate funding arrangement.
In October, Australian Aviation reported how Newcastle needs to secure $65 million by early this year to upgrade its runway – or face waiting another 20 years for the next chance to operate flights further afield than New Zealand.
The deadline is due to the work being able to coincide with a separate upgrade 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 circa 2040.
“We’ve been in discussions with the federal government for some time regarding Code E airfield upgrades at Williamtown,” said Newcastle in a statement.
“We’ve been encouraged by those conversations, and in particular the recent comments from Minister Reynolds. The government clearly has a willingness to look at different solutions to deliver this key piece of infrastructure, which is a great sign of faith in the region and in Newcastle Airport.
“We know that the Defence Minister and other key figures understand the mutual benefits that will flow if we work in partnership on this project. We look forward to ongoing discussions on how we deliver that outcome.
“The airfield upgrades are only part of the requirement. An upgrade to the civilian aprons and terminal to meet the demand of the larger aircraft will also be necessary. We are currently exploring funding opportunities in partnership with the NSW government for these works.”
Minister Reynolds’ comments came at the same time as Prime Minister Scott Morrison also appeared to give his backing.
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.
It missed out on securing government help in last year’s federal budget but said then that it remained “hopeful” it would be able to access funding from a larger pool of money earmarked for airport infrastructure.
The positive news comes days after RAAF Base Williamtown celebrated its 80th anniversary on 15 February with a celebration hosted by Deputy Air Commander Australia Air Commodore Benjamin Sleeman at Fighter World Aviation Museum, NSW.
“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 in 2020. “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.
“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.