The Australian Airports Association (AAA) has welcomed the allocation of $28.3 million over the next four years for remote airports, but said that the Federal Budget handed down on Tuesday night contained nothing for regional airports not classified as remote.
AAA CEO Caroline Wilkie said the Remote Airports Upgrade Program (RAUP) was vital for keeping remote communities connected to the major population centres.
“This funding will help ensure remote airports can keep their infrastructure safe and fit-for-purpose, connecting their community to essential emergency services, loved ones and services only available in larger regional and metropolitan centres," she said.
“Unfortunately, regional airports not eligible for RAUP funding have been left out of this year’s budget and we will continue our campaign to support them in the year ahead.”
The AAA’s Protect Regional Airports campaign called for the RAUP to be extended for a further four years, but also sought separate funding for regional airports not eligible.
“Most regional airports are owned and operated by local councils, and 60% lose money simply trying to maintain what is mostly WWII era infrastructure,” Wilkie said.
“The RAUP is only available for aerodromes classified as ‘remote’, meaning many airports will simply miss out on much needed funding.
“More must be done to break the back of the infrastructure backlog facing our regional airport network to ensure we have a safe and viable regional aviation network for all Australians.”
Although the vast majority of Australia is classified as "remote" or "very remote", most of the heavily-populated areas around the eastern seaboard "J-curve", Darwin and Perth are classified as either "inner regional", "outer regional" or "major city." This means locations as far west of Sydney as Gilgandra, Narrabri and Moree are not eligible for funding under the RAUP, nor is the entire state of Victoria except small patches in the far west and far east.