Hunter residents and businesses have warmly welcomed the announcement of Newcastle Airport’s $55 million international terminal upgrades.
On April 14, the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, Barnaby Joyce, announced $55 million in funding for a significant upgrade and expansion of Newcastle Airport’s international passenger terminal.
Airport CEO, Dr Peter Cock, said the support of Business Hunter and the Hunter Joint Organisation was instrumental in securing funding.
He said the terminal upgrade was the final piece of the puzzle for the Hunter Region in its path towards global connectivity.
“By providing greater access to the global economy, the upgrade will help generate 850,000 additional visitors, 4,410 jobs and $12.7 billion in economic activity for the Hunter and Northern NSW across the next 20 years,” Dr Cock said.
“This truly is a project of national significance.”
He added that the project also gave certainty and confidence to Australia’s largest regional economy at the perfect time.
“This upgrade is essential to process the long-haul aircraft, which can carry close to 400 passengers,” he said.
“This is an entirely different scale to our domestic fleet, which is closer to 180 passengers.”
Business Hunter CEO, Bob Hawes, said the organisation had been a strong supporter of the growth and development of the Newcastle Airport and had helped galvanise support for the project.
“It makes complete sense for a region like the Hunter to have an airport with international gateway capabilities, not just for visitation but also freight,” Hawes said.
“In the long term, increased international capacity in passenger and freight mobility will support a range of existing sectors, businesses and industries who rely on the airport to move goods, services and visitors.
“International connectivity also attracts global interest and investment into new industries, so Business Hunter will continue to work with the airport in that area of economic growth.”
Upgrade impacts are “difficult to quantify”
Dr Cock said the expansion represented “difficult to quantify” opportunities, including international travel convenience, sustainable economic benefits through inbound tourism, and freight-related import and export industries.
Chair of Newcastle Airport, Kirby Clark, said the funding was delivered after an incredibly challenging time for the business.
“It’s difficult to put into words how important global connectivity is for our airport and the 1.2 million people that it services,” he said.
“Measured in purely dollar terms, it’s huge.
“But more than that, this will allow our region to aspire for greater things and achieve them.”
Echoing those sentiments, Newcastle Lord Mayor, Nuatali Nelmes, said the airport would play a key role in the city’s transformation.
“We are emerging as a truly global gateway city with Newcastle Airport having direct access to our key trading and tourism partners in Asia and beyond,” she said.
“This funding means more jobs, economic growth and opportunities to showcase our region on an international stage.”
Over the next 20 years, the upgrade of the airfield and terminal will create 4,400 extra full-time jobs.
In the same period, it will also generate $6.2 billion in extra income for the visitor economy and $6.5 billion in additional business activity through increased freight access.
Additional facilities over two levels will be constructed to cater to an increase in passengers, including hospitality and retail business in a pedestrian plaza, aero-bridges from the upper terminal level, modifications to integrate ground transport and road access, the creation of a campus-style business precinct and additional parking.
A specialised runway will allow the arrival of wide-bodied commercial aircraft such as the Boeing 787 and Airbus A330.
The aircraft carry over 250 passengers and significant freight loads, able to undertake long haul flights into North Asia, the Middle East and the Americas.
“Coming on the back of the Government’s $66 million in funding for our airfield in May last year, this additional infrastructure will ensure nothing holds us back from our global potential,” Dr Cock said.
The region must be prepared, says local stakeholders
Associate Professor at the University of Newcastle Business School, Dr Tamara Young, who specialises in tourism studies, believes connecting Newcastle to global networks would make the region a more attractive place to visit and live.
She said Newcastle and the Hunter would need to step up and support the increased visitor populations.
“As a region and city, we are very tourist-ready in terms of our amazing attractions and facilities,” Dr Young said.
“We need to ensure a skilled and well-trained workforce for positions from chefs and bar staff to tourism and event marketing professionals.”
She predicted an increase in employment throughout the visitor economy and increased demand for educated professionals who could lead the industry in the future.
“The university will play a huge role in educating the future workforce in programs such as our Bachelor of Business in Tourism, and through our new programs partnering with TAFE to deliver cutting edge courses.”
She said Novocastrians also had a role in promoting the Hunter as a key travel destination.
“The largest number of tourists to Newcastle are our friends and relatives,” Dr Young said.
“As hosts to our visitors, we can be destination ambassadors, pseudo tourism marketers, who share the range of attractions of our beautiful city and the Hunter region.”
Hawes agreed that Newcastle and the Hunter would require increased infrastructure to support the increased visitor populations.
“The expansion of facilities to accommodate international flights adds a new dimension to the infrastructure-readiness required to support the visitor economy,” Hawes said.
“We’re anticipating heightened private sector interest to invest in tourism infrastructure, including hotels, connective transport and provisioning.
“Freight logistics infrastructure will be important to ensure the international trade gateway presented through the airport’s new infrastructure meets global expectations.”
He added that public sector investment would focus on economic and social infrastructure such as connections to the airport and planning to facilitate support.
“The Special Activation Precinct plan around Williamtown will be key in this process,” Hawes said.
Works on the upgraded airfield began in April, with the first terminal works to commence in October.
While Dr Cock admitted there was plenty of work ahead, he was confident the Hunter would be connected to a significant Asian hub by 2024.