The Australian Airports Association (AAA) has said that Federal funding of up to $100 million for regional airports would help keep them from closure.
The funding announcement marks a success for the AAA’s Protect Regional Airports campaign, which called for the establishment of a Regional Airport Infrastructure Fund to bridge a multi-million-dollar funding shortfall.
AAA Chief Executive Officer, Caroline Wilkie, said the investment of up to $100 million was wonderful news for people living and working in the regions and would support a sustainable regional aviation network for years to come.
“When we launched the Protect Regional Airports campaign, our regions were already facing significant challenges and airport costs were continuing to rise,” Ms Wilkie said.
The AAA report into regional airports in 2016 found that airports provide essential links for communities, but that many operate at a loss and have reduced capacity for essential capital works.
The new funding will start to address this funding shortfall and assist this essential infrastructure to continue servicing communities into the future.
The AAA believes the funding would help keep regional airports safe and compliant, and save some from the risk of closure.
“We welcome this commitment to keeping our regions strong and ensuring communities can continue to rely on their airports to connect to loved ones and access essential services and trade,” Ms Wilkie said.
Projects ranging from runway and taxiway works to animal fencing and safety equipment will be eligible, with the application process to be released later this year and funds available from 1 July.
It will help address the $170 million aeronautical infrastructure deficit that exists in the regions, with 40 per cent of regional airports facing persistent budget deficits over the next ten years.
Regional airports are critical to their communities, facilitating 6000 emergency evacuations each year and housing 500 aircraft used for firefighting purposes.
The AAA launched the Protect Regional Airports campaign in 2017 to recognise the important role regional airports play and campaign for sustainable funding.
The campaign called for an extension of the Remote Airstrip Upgrade Programme (RAUP) and the creation of a $100 million regional airport infrastructure fund for regional airports not classified as remote.
The RAUP was extended for four years as part of the 2018-19 Federal budget.
Protect Regional Airports was also supported by the Regional Aviation Association of Australia, Australian Local Government Association and Australian Logistics Council. Regional Capitals Australia has also supported the need for regional airport funding.