The City of Greater Bendigo has completed an upgrade of the Bendigo Airport, resulting in a new, larger terminal and an expanded business park. The airport’s increased capacity allows for more flights, greatly increasing tourism and business opportunities for the region – while the upgrade’s construction and the new business park lots are supporting the growth of local industry.

The almost $12 million project is a joint initiative between all three levels of government, with the Federal and Victorian governments investing $4.5 million each and the City of Greater Bendigo contributing $3 million.

Infrastructure Magazine had the opportunity to interview City of Greater Bendigo CEO Andrew Cooney about the recently completed upgrade and gained his insights into how the project got started and how important it is for the region.

Mr Cooney said that in 2014 a business case was prepared to attract $15 million to upgrade the airport’s runway, which was officially opened in 2017.

“This project delivered a 1,600m code 3C runway and represented an incredible asset for a regional city, capable of landing aircraft carrying up to 70 people,” Mr Cooney said.

“In April 2019, the city welcomed the arrival of QantasLink and regular passenger flights between Bendigo and Sydney. However, development of the airport was always considered a two-step project, with the second step being expansion of the terminal and development of a business park.

“The original terminal building was once a kindergarten and while it was given a basic renovation when the Qantas service started, as the service increased in popularity it was evident an expanded terminal would be needed.

“In 2022, all funds for the project were secured including $4.5 million each from the State and Federal governments. The city initially contributed $985,000 and added a further $2.1M, due to rising construction costs experienced on the project. The additional funds ensured the terminal could be complete and provided trunk infrastructure to an initial nine business park lots.”

Brand new facilities

The new terminal building is approximately four times bigger than the original structure and is set to provide expanded travel options to passengers.

Mr Cooney said that the new terminal features an expanded departure lounge, a new café and space for a future security screening area. The old terminal was demolished in August of 2023 in order to make way for the new facilities.

“There’s also a new entry foyer, baggage check-in, indoor baggage claim area, new restroom facilities, new administration area and asphalted car park with 183 parking spaces.

“Landscaping has been done by Djandak, a Dja Dja Wurrung Traditional Owner business.”

A special feature of the airport is the landscaping and interpretive signage prepared by Djandak. Djaara woman Timani Nicholls-Moore provided cultural and creative direction around the garden design and – together with Djaara man Andrew Saunders – provided cultural advice for the signage.

“The project also delivered an expanded apron, which can fit two, 70-seat aircraft and puts the city in a great position to attract other airlines and future flights to other destinations.

“An expanded terminal and additional apron space means the capacity for more flights to more destinations.

“The city has recently undertaken some market research to find out where people want to fly to. Top destinations included the Gold Coast, Adelaide, Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast. Discussions are ongoing with airlines to identify opportunities to establish new flights out of Bendigo.”

Mr Cooney said that, additionally, the airport’s emergency services facilities have been bolstered and include a new helipad that can accommodate a wide array of emergency service helicopters, such as flood and fire response, as well as military and police activity.

“This specific aspect of the project was funded by $300,000 from the Federal Government’s Regional Airports Program.

“Bendigo is in the centre of Victoria, making it ideally located to support a response to an emergency anywhere in the state.

“Thanks to the expanded apron, the airport is also a refilling site for large air tankers, one of a handful of sites in the state, and means Bendigo is a standby location during extreme fire days. This adds to the airport’s other emergency service uses, including as an Air Ambulance and State Government fire base.”

Supporting local industry

Mr Cooney said that despite construction taking place as the economy was emerging from COVID-19 – resulting in cost escalations in the industrial sector that impacted construction efforts – the City was still able to deliver a vital facility that is set to continue growing local industry.

“The nine business park lots have been delivered and are ready to be developed by local industry.

“The development of the initial business park lots close to the city centre provides a great economic opportunity. Bendigo needs more appropriately zoned industrial land.”

Mr Cooney said that more than 50 local companies took part in the project and more than 370 people worked on the site.

“The head contractor, Nicholsons, is a regional Victorian business with an office in Bendigo that used a range of local subcontractors, including for electrical, sewer and water infrastructure.

“There were also six consultants/civil design experts – a mix of Melbourne and local businesses – that supported both the terminal project and business park, which represents the work of about 16 people.

“Projects of this scale are not only an investment in local infrastructure, a valuable transport service and future business growth, they deliver real employment opportunities and are an investment in the skills and capability of local industry.”

An airport for a growth-focused city

Mr Cooney said that the Bendigo Airport services much more than just the Greater Bendigo and central Victorian region.

“Passengers can travel from as far as southern New South Wales to use the service, demonstrating that the ease of travel from Bendigo is a big driver, particularly when it comes to parking, checking in and waiting in a comfortable new space. It provides a stress-free way to travel.

“The City is planning for a population of approximately 200,000 people by 2050. We are proud of the fact that Bendigo is accessible by road, rail and air.”

Mr Cooney said that the airport is part of an ongoing effort to ensure that the City of Greater Bendigo is an attractive place to live, work, and travel to and from.

“We have the fantastic Bendigo Art Gallery that is the centre of our cultural offering and is renowned for hosting amazing, international exhibitions, our world-class Ulumbarra Theatre was once an old gaol and stages amazing performances, we are a UNESCO City and Region of Gastronomy that attracts people to dine in our award-winning restaurants, Bendigo was recently named the Wotif Aussie Town of the Year, and we have a diverse industry including one of Australia’s best regional hospitals and we’re home to Australia’s fifth-largest bank, the Bendigo and Adelaide Bank.

“We see the airport as being another feather in our cap when it comes to attracting people to live and work in the region, as well as making our region more accessible from a tourism perspective.”

With the new terminal and business park now officially open, Bendigo Airport is set to be an even greater economic driver and important emergency services hub for the Bendigo region and beyond.

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