THE Federal government carry out a $66-million airport upgrade at Newcastle, widening its runway to accommodate longer-range flights.

The government said it would increase freight capabilities and create new export destinations for businesses in the Hunter and Central Coast regions.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the airport investment would provide significant economic benefits for the Hunter and Central Coast communities.

“This investment demonstrates our commitment to the Hunter economy, its workers and businesses and will deliver a jobs boom for the whole region,” Mr Morrison said.

“Exporters in the region will be able to access increased freight flights into new international markets.”

Defence dimension

Mr Morrison said the funding leverages defence investments at RAAF Base Williamtown.

The upgrades to Code E status would mean larger aircraft such as Boeing 777s and Airbus 330s could land in Newcastle, with twice daily international flights expected alongside increased daily direct domestic flights.

The work will be done alongside RAAF’s scheduled runway maintenance at the Williamtown base.

Deputy prime minister and infrastructure, transport and regional development minister Michael McCormack said the government was committed to the aviation sector and maintaining Australia’s aviation infrastructure.

“This has ensured activity is sustained at the airport and today’s announcement continues to back in this support to drive the economy and to maintain jobs for the Hunter region,” Mr McCormack said.

Strategic competition boost

Minister for Defence Peter Dutton said the government is committed to position Defence to increase our strategic competition, now and into the future.

“The upgraded lighting and runway will ensure the airfield remains in line with modern industry aviation standards. This is critically important to support the operation of fifth generation aircraft into the future,” Mr Dutton said.

“The improved drainage will allow the Australian Defence Force to support operations through heavy weather events, such as seen in NSW with the recent floods.”

Member for Lyne Dr David Gillespie said the airport upgrade at Newcastle was a great initiative that would open new international markets for tourism and trade, boosting the region’s economy.

“This project will reduce cost and travel times for air-freight movements benefitting our primary producers and attract more corporate, defence and aerospace to the Hunter,” he said.

Pending parliamentary approvals, construction is expected to start later this year and be completed in 2023.