Airport officially opened

CONTRIBUTION RECOGNISED: Labor parliamentarian Clare Scriven attended the official opening of the Mount Gambier Regional Airport last week. The previous Labor State Government committed $4m towards the $9.2m upgrade in 2016.

FOR the first time in years, the Mount Gambier Regional Airport can continue operations 24/7 even during blackouts following the multi-million upgrade of the facility.

After 10 years of discussion and four years of planning, the new terminal was officially opened last week, with South Australian Federal Senator Rex Patrick, State Treasurer Rob Lucas, Barker MP Tony Pasin, Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell and Labor parliamentarian Clare Scriven joining Grant District Council staff and elected members for the event.

Grant District mayor Richard Sage said the $9.2m project – delivered on time and under budget – included a full electrical upgrade for the entire airport to replace the former system which dated back to the 1950s.

Mr Sage said a new state of the art generators and main switchboard will allow floodlight towers, taxi way and centre lights to operate around the clock during blackouts.

“We have also incorporated a solar system and recalibrated our GPS approach technology,” he said.

“The delivery of all these new technologies will ensure that we are continually future proofing our regional airport and are delivering safety and reliability to all aircraft traffic.”

Construction of the upgrade started in May 2019, with Heenan Earthworks undertaking work on the 120-metre expansion to runway 18/36 and the construction of a new heavy aircraft apron.

However, it took three years for Grant District Council to secure Federal funding for the project after the Weatherill Government pledged almost $3m towards the upgrade in 2016 – committing a further $1m the next year to bring the Labor State Government’s total contribution to $4m.

In 2017, Grant District Council sought Federal Government funding for the airport but was unsuccessful in its application to the Building Better Regions Fund.

The terminal upgrade was not included in the initial application, while an estimated $3.5m for runway strengthening was also excluded from the plan.

A revised proposal including a $500,000 contribution from Mount Gambier City Council was submitted, but was also unsuccessful.

On its third attempt, council received $3.5m under the Building Better Regions Fund to progress the project, accompanying a $4m State Government contribution, $1.1m from Grant District Council and $500,000 from Mount Gambier City Council.

Member for Barker Tony Pasin said Federal Government invested into the project via the fund to ensure the long-awaited and important infrastructure project could take shape.

“This project not only created important jobs in the midst of an economic crisis, but the redeveloped facilities make for a more positive visitor experience for those visiting our region,” he said.