Revised airport proposal presented to stakeholders

FRESH FUNDING BID: Grant District Council chief executive Trevor Smart is hopeful a revised proposal for the redevelopment of the Mount Gambier Airport will attract federal funding in round two of the Federal Government’s Building Better Regions Fund. The $9.2m plan includes a significant terminal upgrade, runway extension and lighting upgrades. Picture: SANDRA MORELLO

A REVISED proposal for the redevelopment of the Mount Gambier Airport was presented to local government stakeholders this week ahead of finalising an application to secure federal funding due this month.

The $9.2m plan includes a significant terminal upgrade, an extended runway, heavy aircraft apron and lighting upgrades to “future proof” the facility.

Grant District Council presented to both Mount Gambier City Council and Wattle Range Council this week, seeking regional collaboration on the project through either funding or non-funding partnerships.

Grant council previously held a stakeholder group meeting to progress the development of an application to the Federal Government’s Building Better Regions Fund.

“Our first application for federal funding was unsuccessful, but we have received good feedback from the Federal Government and we have taken that on board,” Grant council chief executive Trevor Smart said.

“We held a stakeholder group meeting to gauge what was most important and revised our plan – the infrastructure we are proposing this time will cater to demands for the next 10 to 15 years.”

A terminal upgrade was not included in the previous application, while strengthening of the runway at an estimated $3.5m was excluded from the revised plan.

“The most significant change to the plan is the terminal upgrade, which will cost an estimated $4.5m,” Mr Smart said.

“To build a brand new terminal would have cost around $8m – we are working with what we already have.

“The significant upgrade will increase the size of the terminal, update the baggage areas, improve the look and feel of the terminal and provide a much better gateway to Mount Gambier and the region from a tourist perspective.”

Mr Smart said the upgrade would also “future proof” the terminal if security screening was ever required – a likely prospect for regional airports in the near future.

While the previous federal funding application proposed the $2m relocation of Airport Road, the revised redevelopment plan will not affect either Riddoch Highway or Airport Road.

“No roads will need to be relocated within the current proposal,” Mr Smart said.

“The plan outlines lengthening the runway to 1644m, which is only an additional 120m.”

Airport manager Ian Fritsch said the redevelopment would increase passenger and freight capacity and the capacity for larger aircraft.

“The heavy aircraft apron upgrades are necessary because they do not have anywhere to park at the moment,” Mr Fritsch said.

“We have that demand during the Generations in Jazz festival – the aircraft can land here fine, but parking is a problem and they cannot take off with a full tank of fuel.

“They wanted to fly another five aircraft in during this year’s festival and we just did not have the space.

“These upgrades will allow the heavy aircraft to leave from Mount Gambier Airport and fly direct to the eastern seaboard without the need to stop and refuel.”

Member for Barker Tony Pasin said the project was a “truly regional initiative” and commended Grant Council for uniting all interested parties.

“The Mount Gambier Airport is a key strategic asset for the Limestone Coast and a redevelopment will benefit business, tourism and residents across the region,” Mr Pasin said.

Elected members of City Council held a special meeting last night to discuss an appropriate funding contribution, while the outcome of the presentation to Wattle Range Council was unknown at the time of print.

Applications for round two of the Building Better Regions Fund close next Tuesday.