Round 4 of the federal government’s Remote Airstrip Upgrade Programme will fund 91 aerodrome projects, ranging from rebuilding an entire runway to constructing camel proof fences.
The Remote Airstrip Upgrade Programme is intended to keep rural, regional and remote Australian communities connected, aiming to improve access to fresh food, medical services, work and education opportunities in isolated areas.
Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Darren Chester, said each of the 91 projects funded under the current round meant people living in remote areas would have improved access to services and connections with the rest of the nation.
“The $11.8 million committed to projects under Round 4 will help upgrade airstrips in New South Wales, Queensland, West Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory,” Mr Chester said.
“Australia’s tyranny of distance is a way of life for many of our most remote communities, and safe and functioning airstrips are often the only reliable means of transport for freight and urgent services.
“Smooth runways or keeping wildlife away from airstrips can make all the difference in a safe landing. These upgrades will safeguard access to essential health care services including emergency medical evacuations, while also improving access to work and education opportunities.
“Having access to fresh food and water, and indeed access to communities hundreds of kilometres away, is an underappreciated fact in many cities, but for residents in remote communities it is essential.”
Mr Chester said the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) was a prominent applicant to the round, and a number of remote airstrips to be upgraded were frequently used by the service.
“These vital infrastructure improvements, including new airport lighting, runway resealing and modern satellite-based instrument approaches, are essential to keeping the RFDS flying,” Mr Chester said.
“The RFDS is a magnificent medical provider to remote communities across the nation and we are proud to be able to support their work by ensuring their operations can be conducted as safely as possible.
“The Australian Government clearly remains committed to improving services in regional and remote communities across Australia.”
Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia CEO, Martin Laverty, welcomed the announcement.
“It’s common for emus or kangaroos to disrupt aircraft landings on unfenced airstrips during medical emergencies in remote areas. Night landings on some airstrips are also hindered where there is no lighting,” Mr Laverty said.
“Commonwealth funding, and the terrific aviation planning relationship we have with Minister Chester and his departmental staff, means the Flying Doctor will be better able to deliver emergency medical care to injured or ill Australians across 91 frequently used airstrips.”
The funding is part of the government’s announcement in the 2015–16 Budget of $33.7 million over four years to fund access and safety upgrades for remote community airstrips under the Remote Airstrip Upgrade Programme.
Round 4 was the second tranche of upgrades under the 2015–16 Budget funding.
A list of projects approved under the programme can be viewed here.