Hopes are high next week’s federal budget will support Newcastle Airport’s push to establish itself on the international map.
The airport is seeking $56million to upgrade its runway to accommodate international aircraft.
The project, regarded as the region’s top infrastructure priority, would create 4500 jobs and generate an estimated $12.7 billion in economic benefits through international airfreight, industrial expansion and increased tourism traffic over the next two decades.
The Newcastle Herald understands the budget will contain measures to support the airport’s growth.
Newcastle Airport chief executive Peter Cock said he was ‘optimistic about a positive outcome’ from the budget.
“We’ve put a very strong case to the government regarding investing in this vital project. Importantly, our submissions and discussions have been supported extraordinarily well by all sectors of our community and for that we are very grateful,” he said.
“We know that the delivery of a Code E runway at Williamtown will be a game changer for our region, creating an immediate and permanent stimulus to the local economy.
“With that in mind, we’ve been encouraged by our discussions at a senior government level and feel there is a genuine intent on their part to invest in the region.”
The runway upgrade needs to coincide with major works to the Williamtown RAAF base airfield in support of the F-35 fleet.
Following a meeting with Dr Cock in February, former Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said she supported both projects occurring at the same time.
“If we do the works together it minimises the impact at the airport for both and it reduces costs,” she said at the time.
Committee for the Hunter chief executive Alice Thompson said the government had engaged in positive discussions with the region’s advocates about how to fund the runway project.
“We are hopeful that these positive discussions translate into a funding commitment in next week’s budget so we can get on with delivering the benefits of the project to the communities of the Hunter and regional NSW,” she said.
“We’ve now stepped up engagement with the NSW Government to match funding for the terminal upgrades and associated facilities that are required to process the increased volumes of passengers and freight unlocked by the runway upgrade.
“NSW Government support for the terminal upgrades would amplify the benefits of their investment in the Williamtown Special Activation Precinct and attract more business to the international defence and aerospace hub.”
While significant progress has been made on securing funding commitments for the Singleton and and Scone bypasses in the past year, funding for the M1 motorway extension from Black Hill to Raymond Terrace remains unfunded.
Infrastructure Australia has listed the project, a missing link in the national highway between Sydney and Brisbane, as a priority initiative that should be delivered within the next five years.
The Hunter Business Chamber has argued that, while the project is not yet shovel-ready, bringing funding forward could expedite planning and assessment and ensure delivery in line with the Infrastructure Australia recommendation.
There are also hopes the budget will contain funding for the the University of Newcastle’s proposed Hunter STEMM Regional Transformation Hub.
The $207 million building will be situated where the first University of Newcastle building, McMullin, currently stands.
The project would be the largest capital investment undertaken at the institution and would create an estimated 2100 jobs during construction.