Ballina may replace Coolangatta as local airport of choice

BALLINA-Byron Gateway Airport's bold plan for a $7.45 million terminal expansion and associated works is looking promising, with the project shortlisted this week for a share of $95 million in state funding.

Ballina is among 24 regional airports (including Lismore) competing for a slice of the NSW Government's regional tourism infrastructure fund.

The next round of detailed submissions are due in August.

The centrepiece of the $7.45 million project is the tripling in size of the departure lounge, with a new café, sports bar, three shops, twice as many chairs, and three times the number of toilets.

To accommodate the expanded terminal, the airport's drop off area has also been redesigned with a new taxi rank, shuttle-bus parking and staff parking area.

And to top off the project, the runway "apron" area would be resurfaced at a cost of $2.5 million to allow unrestricted jet parking day or night.

As the state's second largest regional airport after Newcastle, it had an excellent case for expansion, according to airport manager Neil Weatherson.

The expansion would cement the airport as the natural gateway to the region instead of passengers having to hike up the highway and north of the border to Coolangatta.

The airport has seen 432,000 passengers come through its doors in the last 12 months and is on track for 460,000 in the coming year.

A new daily flight to Melbourne is also set to come online as a permanent, rather than seasonal, fixture.

"I'm fairly optimistic about the future … we're the fastest growing (airport in the state) in terms of passenger numbers," Mr Weatherson said.

"The terminal is well overdue for extension - it's not ideal at present.

"This is what the customers have been asking for for the last three years."

A meeting to progress Ballina-Byron Gateway Airport's application will take place next week with Infrastructure NSW staff.

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