Airport fails to land project funds

PROJECT GROUNDED: The $9m redevelopment of the Mount Gambier Airport has stalled after failing to secure federal funds. Picture: ADAM BRANFORD

THE $9m redevelopment of the Mount Gambier Airport has stalled after failing to secure key Federal Government funding.

More than 500 applications were lodged for the highly competitive Building Better Regions Fund with 110 projects receiving the green light.

Grant District Council was seeking $4.5m from the Federal Government to top up $4m from the State Government and $415,000 in airport reserve funds.

Considered one of the region’s most important infrastructure projects, the blueprint included lengthening the runway and taxiway upgrades to cater for larger aircraft.

At the moment the landing of larger charter aircraft for events, tourism and even fire-bombers are restricted because of the runway and aprons.

The redevelopment would also allow longer haul aircraft – from Sydney or Brisbane – to land at the airfield.

Council chief executive officer Trevor Smart conceded the funding outcome was a setback, but vowed the local government body would continue to explore funding streams for the important project.

“We will find out what was good, bad or otherwise about the application,” Mr Smart told a council meeting this week.

He said council would now have to canvass a way forward on the project, including exploring alternative funding streams.

“Council will now have to consider what it wants to do,” Mr Smart said.

“Does it want to pursue a similar approach or something different and where are the funding sources for that?”

He foreshadowed a second round of the Building Better Regions Fund could open up later in the year.

“Member for Barker Tony Pasin has also indicated there is a further fund focusing on transport hubs,” the council chief said.

Mr Smart said council also needed to speak with the State Government about its $4m commitment and whether it was still on the table.

“There is no answer about exactly where we will go – there are a number of things to consider and we need to go through the process.”

Meanwhile, Mr Pasin said applications were assessed against the eligibility and assessment criteria detailed in the guidelines.

“Applications that met the eligibility requirements were assessed against the four assessment criteria – economic benefit, social benefit, value for money and project delivery – allocated a score and then ranked against other applications,” Mr Pasin said.

“Successful applications described and quantified project economic benefits, in the short and long term, and how they would deliver social benefits in the region.

“They had multiple partners with significant co-funding coming from various sources that demonstrated commitment to projects and broad community support.”

Mr Pasin said he looked forward to working with the council and relevant stakeholders on the issue.

Regional Development Minister Fiona Nash said 110 rural, regional and remote projects had been successful under the infrastructure stream of round one of the Building Better Regions Fund.

“The Coalition Government will invest $219.5m into 110 projects which are worth a total of $467.9m including investment from applicants and other sources,” Ms Nash said.

“We’re delivering all kinds of projects from a new track at Mount Panorama in Bathurst to a new reef and rainforest research centre in Cairns, affordable accommodation for aged people in Dwellingup in WA to a new permanent base for the LifeFlight helicopter base in Toowoomba.”