Ballarat Airport

It’s time to give the Airport its wings!

Ballarat’s prosperity framework describes our city as one of ‘Possibilities”. What a delightful way to describe our unique and important regional city. Possibility casts a lens to the future and in a world where so much of our discourse is preoccupied by the here and now, we must make the time to think ahead and ensure future potential is not thwarted by short term decision making.

Committee for Ballarat’s purpose is to Inspire Diverse Thought Leadership and Unlock Potential. The recent Council decision to invest $5 million of Ratepayers money and match the Federal Government’s $5 million to extend the airport’s runway, is a decision to preserve the ‘Possibility’ and will unlock great potential.

Connectivity is a critical enabler for business, industry, and the community. The airport, in the short, medium and long term, gives us a very unique opportunity to connect road, rail and air, geographically and logistically, in ways that other regionals cities in Victoria cannot.

Such connectivity is an enormous opportunity for the region, and specifically for BWEZ, with business and industry able to access integrated transport options and enhance access to markets.

Investment in the airport will capitalise on the significant investment the state government and the City of Ballarat have both made to the BWEZ precinct.  And just in case we are comparing ourselves to Bendigo, I know they would dearly love to have their own industrial precinct, let alone one that has access to road rail and air.

The works that will now be undertaken with the commitment of the $10 million, will have a significant impact and allow the airport to move to a more commercially focused business model. It will provide new and expanded opportunities for aviation services and deliver growth in specialised high paying jobs and economic activity.

An extended runway will provide the opportunity for larger aircraft to access maintenance here in Ballarat, work that currently goes to Avalon or regional and interstate airports. An extended runway will ensure Ballarat is well positioned to provide emergency services support and access to police, fire and ambulance. This includes the capacity to operate larger air tankers and provide faster response to fire, greatly enhancing our ability to help protect lives, livestock and property.

Ballarat is extremely fortunate with the location of our airport as we have an unrestricted airspace overlay. This allows us to dispatch most aircraft within minutes of a request and added to our central geographic location, Ballarat is positioned to make a substantial contribution in a crisis, where timely air support is crucial to a positive outcome.

It is right that the current $10 million investment will not deliver an ultimate solution. Further widening and strengthening and facilities will be required in time if we are to have significant passenger traffic arriving via air. Again, comparison to Bendigo, their airport facility did not happen over night, rather has seen 10 years or more of development.

The further investment that is require now is from the State Government to developed Liberator drive, as per Development Victoria’s own Master Plan for BWEZ. Liberator Drive is a critical piece of road infrastructure, not only for the airport but for the the entire BWEZ precinct. The investment is estimated at somewhere between $2-14 million and will unlock at least $20 million of new land sales, further stimulating business activity and significant economic impact.

In the case of the airport, size does matter.  By lengthening the runway, opportunity will follow, unlocking further investment, and whilst the getting in a plane too holiday in Queensland will be some time away, we should not discount the potential for it into the future.

The extension of the runway will have an immediate impact, made possible by the $10 million investment now committed. It will also make possible future development that will provide a return on investment many times over by enabling business growth, jobs and innovation. Perhaps best of all, the investment will uniquely position the City by securing our transport future via road, rail and air.

Michael Poulton

CEO Committee for Ballarat