Both major political parties have committed to funding a $55 million upgrade of Newcastle Airport’s terminal to make it ready for longer-haul international flights.
It comes after the airport last year secured a separate $66 million to rebuild its runway so it could handle heavier and larger widebodies.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce made the announcement on Thursday before Labor leader Anthony Albanese pledged to match it should the opposition win next month’s federal election.
“This upgrade is essential to process the long-haul aircraft, which can carry close to 400 passengers,” said Newcastle Airport chief executive Peter Cock.
“This is an entirely different scale to our domestic fleet, which is closer to 180 passengers.
“It will drive huge, sustainable economic benefits throughout the region through inbound tourism, and freight-related industries, including import and export.”
Pre-COVID, Newcastle would operate seasonal flights to New Zealand, but the twin revamps would open up its network and bring an additional 850,000 visitors to the Hunter and Northern NSW region over the next 20 years.
The funding is the final piece of the puzzle after the airport won a race against time last year to secure funds to upgrade its runway.
In October 2020, Australian Aviation reported how Newcastle needed to secure the money by early 2021 – 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 comes a month after airline FlyPelican expanded its footprint at its Newcastle Airport base, with a new onsite headquarters and maintenance hangar.
The airline has been based at Newcastle since 2015, however, signed a new lease with the airport for a total footprint of 1,230 metres, including its new office headquarters and hangar, capable of accommodating three aircraft and 50 team members.
The regional airline said the expansion is set to introduce up to 15 new local jobs, as it looks to bring its maintenance facilities and base of operations under the same roof.
It will bring FlyPelican’s base maintenance for its fleet of British Aerospace Jetstream 32 aircraft to the airport, while the airline will look to directly employ local maintenance engineers.
“We’re proud to partner with airlines who align with our vision to be the Airport the region deserves. For the past six years, FlyPelican have been with us on this journey, offering key regional services to our catchment,” Cook said.