Newcastle Herald, by Michael Parris
Newcastle Airport will have a runway and terminal capable of serving long-haul international flights by the end of next year after securing budgeted funding from the federal government.
Airport executives will waste no time in spruiking the new-look terminal to overseas carriers. They plan to travel to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur next month for high-level meetings with Singapore Airlines, Scoot and AirAsia X about flying in and out of Newcastle.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce was at Williamtown on Thursday to announce the government will fully fund the $55 million terminal building.
Mr Joyce’s office stressed the money was not a campaign promise but came from the Hunter’s $750 million allocation under the new Energy Security and Regional Development Plan announced in last month’s budget.
Airport chairman Kirby Clark and Hunter business and community leaders hailed the terminal funding as a milestone for the region.
The federal government committed $66 million last year to widening and strengthening the runway to accommodate larger aircraft capable of flying to Asia, the Middle East and the US.
Mr Clark said the runway and terminal upgrades would allow the airport to start negotiating with airlines.
“If you can’t land the aircraft, there’s not much to talk about,” he said.
“When the announcement was made on the runway, airlines were really interested in talking to us.
“Today’s announcement will give them far more reason to talk to us.”
As has been obvious during the airport’s discussions to put New Zealand and more domestic destinations on the radar, airlines will establish new routes only if they are sure of selling enough seats on planes.
Singapore is first on the airport’s list of potential new destinations. Asked whether the airport catchment could support 400-seat flights to Asia, Mr Clark said: “Singapore is our Mumbai strategy, our Berlin strategy, our London strategy. Getting people to Singapore opens the world.
“Singapore Airlines alone services 107 locations out of Singapore.
“It’s attractive to the airlines because it’s an opportunity to take a bigger share of the Australian market by not having to compete in Sydney with other airlines and being able to be closer to their customers.
“This region, with 1.3 million people, can support multiple international routes.”
Business Hunter chief executive Bob Hawes said many overseas and domestic carriers preferred smaller airports because they could “get a better deal” on fees.
He said the new terminal had the potential to bring in thousands of tourists and boost regional exports of wine, farm produce, seafood and technology.
“It’s an enormous opportunity for the region,” he said.
“Now it’s incumbent on us to get all our other visitor infrastructure, our logistics, transport links up to scratch.”
The Hunter’s budgeted allocation under the regional development plan also includes the $56 million Mr Joyce announced on Thursday for upgrading Mandalong Road at Morisset.
The regional plan still has $270 million left sitting in it for the Hunter.
The government announced on budget day that it had allocated $100 million for a Newcastle hydrogen hub and $268 million for Muswellbrook bypass under the plan.
Committee for the Hunter chief executive Alice Thompson said regional advocates could now happily cross the airport, hydrogen hub and Mandalong Road off their wish lists.
“These kind of announcements give the business community and councils certainty and direction,” she said.
“The Mandalong Road funding could trigger more ambitious plans for the Eraring Power Station precinct.”
Labor committed $30 million to the Morisset project last month and said on Thursday that it would honour the budget allocation for the airport if elected.