$10 million announced for Ballina airport
THE Federal Government has confirmed a $10 million grant for an upgrade to the Ballina Byron Gateway Airport runway.
The sum will be used for a $23m expansion of the runway from 30m to 45m, to allow larger aircraft to land.
The other $13m will be financed by Ballina Shire Council, which owns the airport.
Page MP and Assistant Minister for Infrastructure, Kevin Hogan, said the runway extension would increase the number of visitors to the area in the future.
"More than 530,000 passenger arrive at this airport every year, and every person who arrives here, especially tourists, support jobs in our community. This $23m upgrade will bring more people to the region," he said.
Ballina Byron Gateway Airport general manager Julie Stewart said a tender was expected to be called before the end of the year.
"The project is staged, so the works will usually operate around aircraft schedules and operations," she said.
"There is a strong communications plan with the airlines to ensure that they can continue flying, but there will be some minor interruptions."
The general manager said the upgrade would allow wide-bodied aircraft to land in Ballina.
"(It will accommodate) aircraft like the Airbus A321, which will allow roughly for twice the number of passengers that we have in the current Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 aircraft," Ms Stewart said.
"(The upgrade will also mean) a relocation of air navigation and safety (equipment) including lighting, wind socks, so there will be an increase in safety for all the aircraft."
The current A320 can transport 180 passengers, and Boeing 737 up to 160, while the new Airbus A321 can accommodate up to 236 people.
Ballina Shire Mayor David Wright was happy with the announcement.
"It's actually unbelievable. I thank Kevin Hogan very much for what he's done," he said.
"Kevin, after a bit of convincing, realised this was an important regional project and this is not even in his electorate, and he has pushed this."
Richmond MP Justine Elliot said she was proud to be delivering on her election commitment.
"At the last election, I made a commitment to fight for and deliver $10 million for the Ballina Byron Gateway Airport and I'm very pleased to be delivering this major infrastructure upgrade.
"I welcome this funding announcement that will enable the widening and strengthening of the runway."