Newcastle Airport has won its race against time to secure funds to upgrade its runway ready for long-haul international flights.
On Friday, the federal government announced it would cover the full $66 million necessary after previously only committing to a proportion of the funding.
In October, Australian Aviation reported how Newcastle needed to secure the money 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 was due to the work being able to coincide with a separate upgrade carried out by the RAAF, which owns and manages the strip. If the deadline had been missed, Newcastle would likely have had to wait until the next RAAF upgrade circa 2040.
The news means Newcastle will soon welcome two international flights per day when borders open.
“This investment demonstrates our commitment to the Hunter economy, its workers and businesses, and will deliver a jobs boom for the whole region,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
“This investment will also deliver hundreds of thousands of extra tourists to the region, spending money in local businesses, while exporters in the region will be able to access increased freight flights into new international markets.
“This funding leverages our significant defence investments at RAAF Base Williamtown, not only creating local economic benefits but also making it easier for the entire local community to travel domestically, and once open again, to travel internationally to many new locations.”
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack outlined how the program will support Australia’s aviation economy.
“This is another example of the government backing our aviation industry, including airports, to support planes in the air and jobs on the ground,” the Deputy PM said.
“This has included close to $3 million in support to Newcastle Airport to assist with security screening costs, supporting half-price flights to the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast through Qantas and FlyPelican and funding to maintain essential flights to and from the airport through the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This has ensured activity is sustained at the airport and today’s announcement continues to back in this support to drive the economy and to maintain jobs for the Hunter region.”
Newcastle earlier predicted 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.