Melbourne Airport has spent more than $45 million on buying up land near its border in preparation to build a third runway – despite the project not being greenlit by the federal government.
An investigation by The Age has revealed the business has bought up more than 200 hectares, including one property for $22 million alone.
Melbourne said in response that land acquisition was “an important safeguarding tool to protect the airport’s operations and it supports with our legislative requirement to expand capacity to meet demand”.
Australian Aviation reported in 2018 how Melbourne Airport changed its preference for a planned third strip, which it now wants to run in parallel to the existing north-south runway.
The move away from the previous east-west orientation was flagged in June 2019, when the airport first announced it was having technical consultations with government, airlines and regulatory bodies about a change of direction.
The airport then said it would “move forward with plans to build a third runway in a north-south orientation” following an extensive planning review and months of consultations.
“The new runway will increase capacity to keep up with Victoria’s growth demands, provide economic benefits to the state and improve traveller experience by creating opportunities to add more destinations and frequent flights,” it said at the time.
The change of direction came six years after Melbourne Airport stated its preferred orientation for the third runway to run east-west in its 2013 Master Plan. Those plans were reaffirmed in the 2018 Master Plan.
However, the airport then insisted a north-south runway would have minimal closures based on crosswind modelling and offer greater capacity based on airport operations and aircraft taxiing.
Construction was due to start in 2022, though that is thought to be unlikely now.
“To keep growing, and to keep up with our growing population, tourism and business needs, a third runway must be built,” Melbourne Airport chief executive Lyell Strambi said in a video posted on the Melbourne Airport YouTube channel in 2019.
“For travellers, this means opening up more international destinations to visit, more frequent flights and of course lower air airfares.
“And perhaps the most important thing, reduced delays, saving time for passengers.”
The news comes after the Victorian government released the first image and details of a proposed 50-metre-high bridge that will carry tracks from Melbourne Airport’s new rail link.
The 500 metre-long structure will cross over the Maribyrnong River and will be the second-highest in the state after the West Gate.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed in November they were committing $5 billion each to finally create a train link from Tullamarine into the city, which is due to be completed in 2029.