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Regional airports seeking to upgrade their existing facilities will be able to apply for a share of $33.7 million in federal government funding.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development Warren Truss has announced a fresh allocation of funds for the government’s Remote Airstrip Upgrade Programme.
Truss said on Saturday the $33.7 million in grants to regional airports for safety and access upgrades would be available from the start of 2015/16 and be spread over the next four years.
“Many communities in remote Australia depend on air services for essential supplies, mail, passenger transport and medical care, especially if their roads become unusable because of the weather,” Truss said in a statement.
“The funding will be available to repair and upgrade runway surfaces, safety equipment such as runway lighting and navigation aids, and infrastructure such as fences and gates.”
In 2014, there were 42 projects that received a combined $9 million in funding under the Remote Airstrip Upgrade Programme.
The Australian Airports Association (AAA) and Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS), who along with the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) have been lobbing for the continuation of the existing scheme, welcomed the news.
AAA chief executive Caroline Wilkie said the desperately needed funds would ensure many regional and remote airports would remain operational in order to provide essential air links.
“Without access to this essential government support, many regional and remote airports would be unable to finance the critical runway and infrastructure upgrades that are essential for community services such as the Royal Flying Doctor,” Wilkie said in a statement.
“Beyond their immediate economic footprint, airports play an important social role in connecting individuals, families and communities with the rest of the country by providing critical infrastructure links to our regional and remote communities.
RFDS chief executive Martin Laverty said the new funding package would help keep airstrips safe by sealing runways, installing standby power and improved lighting, building vehicle safety barriers and adding fencing.
“Kangaroos, emus and other animals can cause tremendous damage when airstrips are unfenced. Today’s announcement will allow practical improvements to airstrips that remote residents rely on,” Laverty said in a statement.
Separately, the federal government said it had also provided an extra $5.9 million over the next three years towards the Remote Air Services Subsidy Scheme.
Truss said the funding boost supplemented the $50.9 million already allocated to the scheme, which supports weekly air services to remote and isolated parts of Australia such as cattle stations or indigenous communities that rely on air services for food, medical supplies and educational materials, over the next four years.
“This funding will help remote and isolated communities across Australia to maintain vital air access,” Truss said.
“It will allow the network of essential scheduled flights provided for communities to be maintained.”
The Department of Infrastructure website says there were currently six operators serving 260 remote communities across Western Australia, Northern Territory, Queensland, Tasmania and South Australia.
Darwin International Airport (DIA) has opened the doors to its newly completed terminal expansion.
The $75 million project has improved the airport’s ability to handle passengers during peak periods thanks to a bigger arrivals and departures area, six additional boarding gates, more space for security screening and three new aircraft parking bays.
The terminal floorspace has increased to 27,000 square metres, from 16,000, while the airport apron was extended by 15,000 square metres.
Meanwhile, Qantas and Virgin Australia have recently opened new lounges at Darwin Airport, while new retail and food outlets have also been opened.
Northern Territory Airports chief executive Ian Kew said the terminal expansion ensured the airport was capable of handling the expected growth in passenger traffic from 2.3 million a year currently in the period ahead.
“The terminal expansion project aimed to cater for this growth—to create a bigger, more efficient terminal that offers visitors a better customer experience and supports DIA’s airline and retail partners to build their businesses,” Kew said in a statement.
“Investment in the airport’s infrastructure benefits the Top End by helping to attract and grow air services to the region, supporting tourism, business and industry.
“DIA is majority owned by superannuation funds. Its success contributes to secure financial incomes for Australians, including thousands of Territorians.”
Northern Territory Airports runs Darwin, Alice Springs and Tennant Creek airports.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott was present for the official opening ceremony.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development Warren Truss said the new terminal would be a major boost to tourism in the Top End.
“The Australian Government made a commitment to develop northern Australia and this project supports that commitment, with growth in passenger traffic expected to reach four million people by 2030,” Truss said in a statement.
“With the airport contributing almost two per cent to Gross State Product, this project is an essential upgrade and continues our plan for a more productive and prosperous Australia.”
Tourism Australia has signed a marketing agreement with Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific.
The two parties will jointly invest $2 million in 2015 promoting Australia in key overseas markets China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and the UK. Moreover, Cathay will promote Australia at 40,000 feet with images of the nation’s best food, landmarks and experiences to be included on its in-flight entertainment system.
Tourism Australia said it was the first multi-market deal the peak tourism body had signed with Cathay, which flies to Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney from its Hong Kong hub.
“Cathay Pacific is one of the world’s most respected airlines and an aviation partner we’re very keen to work with, especially given the strength of their footprint within North Asia,” Tourism Australia managing director John O’Sullivan said in a statement on Monday.
“The deal provides a strong platform to further grow inbound tourism from some of Australia’s most important inbound visitor markets.”
Cathay is also flying about 200 travel agents from China to Australia for a three-day Tourism Australia event on Queensland’s Hamilton Island that also involves travel media and Australian tourism operators.
The most recent figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show China is Australia’s second-largest source of inbound visitors.
For the 10 months to October 2014 (which is the most updated figure), there were 699,400 visitors from China, an increase of 16 per cent from the prior corresponding period. Only New Zealand provided Australia more overseas visitors with a little over one million Kiwis heading across the Tasman over the same period.
And a report from Tourism Research Australia said Chinese tourists spent $4.8 billion in Australia in 2013, with the figure forecast to grow to between $9.4 billion and $10 billion by 2020.
Sydney Airport says it is looking at replacing the six diesel buses that currently run from the two domestic terminals to a nearby car park with electric vehicles.
The airport said on Monday it had opened expressions of interest for an open tender to supply electric buses for the “busy shuttle route” that carried about 1.6 million staff and passengers in 2014 between Terminals two and three and the Blu Emu car park.
“We are always looking to improve the efficiency of our ground transport operations and to do so in a sustainable way,” Sydney Airport general manager for parking and ground transport Craig Norton said in a statement.
“Finding sustainable transport solutions is a priority for the airport, and advances in electric vehicle technology in recent years mean we can now look seriously at the feasibility of introducing electric buses.”
Sydney Airport said manufacturers from both Australia and overseas were invited to register, with notices of the tender published in the US and UK, as well as across Europe and Asia.
The deadline for applications is June 12.