Media: By Michael Parris October 26 2022
Newcastle Airport says it is “thrilled” to have funding for its new terminal building confirmed in Tuesday’s federal budget, and the Hunter’s peak business group has welcomed commitments to other large infrastructure projects.
The budget delivered $55 million over two years for the international-standard airport terminal, which is being built in conjunction with $66 million runway upgrades to accommodate larger, long-haul aircraft.
“Naturally we are thrilled by the news out of today’s budget announcement, and I want to thank the Albanese government for the faith it has shown in our region,” airport chief executive Peter Cock said.
“Not only does this ensure nothing holds our region back from its global potential, it helps Newcastle Airport to deliver on our promise of being the airport the region deserves.”
The airport, which is owned jointly by Newcastle and Port Stephens councils, has started work on upgrading its car park and will start construction of the terminal building early next year.
“Our ambition is to connect to a significant Asian or Middle Eastern hub by 2024,” Dr Cock said.
Business Hunter president Tony Rhodes said maintaining momentum on key Hunter infrastructure would boost statewide growth and connectivity and help the economy diversify.
“We’ll continue to unpack the finer detail of the budget over the coming days, however, we’re pleased to see reconfirmed support for the Muswellbrook bypass, enabling works for the clean energy precinct at the Port of Newcastle, upgrades at Newcastle Airport and corridor acquisition and planning for fast rail,” Mr Rhodes said.
He also welcomed the budget’s commitment to a new accord between federal and state governments, investors and the construction industry to build one million new homes over five years starting in 2024.
“Lack of available housing stock has greatly limited the region’s capacity to attract skilled workers to our growing jobs and industrial markets,” he said.
“Any measures that help remedy local housing shortages will be welcome relief.”
Mr Rhodes said Hunter businesses would also welcome measures to ease labour and skills shortages, including boosting migration from 160,000 to 195,000, speeding up visa processing, 180,000 free TAFE places, supporting pensioners back into the workforce and training for the energy transition.
“The budget supports an increased 967 places for students at the University of Newcastle, aimed specifically at increasing equity and diversity across disciplines including teaching, nursing and engineering.
“This is a pipeline that could grow our desperately needed base of skilled workers and support the future needs of the region.”
He said recent years had been “relentlessly tough” for business “and we’re not out of the woods yet”.
“An investment in tailored small business mental health and financial counselling programs is an important and welcome measure as we continue to confront a challenging outlook for businesses already grappling with labour shortages, higher prices and global disruption.”
The Hunter’s funding comes amid a climate of government belt-tightening as it deals with a record budget deficit and a global economic downturn.
Committee for the Hunter chief executive Alice Thompson said the port had been rewarded for its “smart advocacy” and local MPs and stakeholders had worked hard to lock in funding for promised infrastructure projects.
“In the face of significant risks of budget cuts, the Hunter has succeeded, and this funding will support multiples of private sector investment and achievement of our shared national goals for stronger regions and a clean economy,” she said.
Key Hunter infrastructure projects have survived Labor’s budget overhaul of the former government’s grant programs.
The Albanese government’s first budget on Tuesday commits funding to a Newcastle port hydrogen hub, Newcastle Airport, high-speed rail and a Muswellbrook bypass amid what Treasurer Jim Chalmers labelled a “disciplined” approach to spending.
Labor also made good on promises to restore ongoing funding to the region’s GP Access After Hours service, to the tune of $28.7 million over six years, $1.1 million over four years to reopen the Kaden cancer support centre and $10.5 million to upgrade Muswellbrook town centre.
The airport will receive $55 million, $15 million this year and $40 million in 2023-24, to build a new terminal.
The government also will spend $100 million to “support the Port of Newcastle and the Hunter region to become hydrogen-ready”.
The spending is under a $672.7 million, seven-year infrastructure program titled “Northern Australia Projects and Supporting Clean Energy in the Hunter”.
It is not clear when the hydrogen hub money will start flowing, but forward estimates show the broader program will receive $332.7 million in its first four years.
Department officials confirmed $82 million for two hydrogen production projects in Newcastle had been included in a new Regional Hydrogen Hubs Program.
Labor’s $16 million election commitment to a clean energy research centre at the University of Newcastle is funded through the new Priority Community Infrastructure Program.
The budget makes little mention of the former government’s $7.1 billion Energy Security and Regional Development Plan (ESRDP), $750 million of which was earmarked for the Hunter.
The two announced funding allocations from that program, the $100 million hydrogen hub and $268.8 million for the New England Highway bypass at Muswellbrook, have survived the Labor review of what the government termed Coalition “rorts and waste.
The Hunter has not received the remaining $381 million from its allocation.
Some of the unspent funds from the ESRDP have been used for what the government calls “budget repair” and some allocated to other programs.
The budget allocates $8.1 billion over 10 years to new infrastructure projects, including $500 million on the Sydney to Newcastle high-speed rail corridor.
Labor also will fund an extra 967 teaching, nursing and engineering student places at Newcastle University.
Labor’s $56 million pledge to upgrade Mandalong Road at Morisset does not appear as a line item in the budget, but Hunter MP Dan Repacholi said Lake Macquarie City Council would receive the funding to complete the project.
Shortland MP Pat Conroy said the budget also had delivered $2.25 million to address mobile phone reception across his electorate and funding to improve amenities for sporting clubs at Garden Suburb, Belmont and Dudley-Redhead.
Other projects funded through the budget include $10 million for a dredge for Lake Macquarie and $10 million for a Lake Macquarie mine grouting fund.
Other projects in the Hunter electorate to receive funding include:
- $250,000 for Mums Cottage upgrades
- $250,000 for urban river projects
- $65,000 for Edgeworth Eagles fencing and lighting
- $5.5 million for Muswellbrook Olympic Park
- $7000 for the Muswellbrook Preschool Playgroup
- $250,000 for the Singleton Rugby Club amenities fit out and women’s change rooms
- $1 million for the Cessnock Regional Skate Park
- $500,000 for the MNX Facility upgrade at Carmichael Park
- $373,000 for Cessnock Goannas lighting upgrade
- Cessnock urgent care clinic