21 March 2024

Have your say on plans for Shellharbour Airport's bigger, brighter future

| Jen White
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Shellharbour Airport at dusk.

Residents are urged to give feedback on a draft master plan for Shellharbour Airport. Photo: Shellharbour City Council.

Two information sessions will be held on Monday (25 March) to allow residents to learn more about proposals for the future of Shellharbour Airport.

Shellharbour Council has prepared a draft master plan for the airport, which includes options to allow larger passenger planes to operate.

The master plan is on exhibition for public comment, which has been extended to Friday 26 April.

Shellharbour Mayor Chris Homer said the master plan, once approved by council, would “guide the evolution of the airport for generations to come”.

“The vision for Shellharbour Airport is to provide an economic uplift by bringing business and commercial development and additional tourists to the city,” he said.

“Shellharbour Airport has exciting potential to have an expanded airport capable of having larger aircraft and more frequent flights [which] would give a real boost to the region – and be an attractor to investment and tourism into the area.”

In the last financial year about 36,500 aircraft movements were recorded at the airport.

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The only commercial passenger service currently operating is Link Airways’ flights to Melbourne and Brisbane, using 34-seat aircraft.

The draft master plan canvasses options to allow larger passenger planes to use the airport and what additional infrastructure would be required, such as runway and terminal requirements.

Additional security screening would be required for medium-sized aircraft (about 135 passengers), while larger size aircraft (about 150 passengers) would require additional length and strengthening of runways, an upgraded passenger terminal and additional car parking.

“Despite some limitations, on-ground infrastructure is largely fit-for-purpose to accommodate regular operations by a wider range of aircraft types than has been the case in the past, as a result of careful application of funding over recent years to runway, apron and terminal upgrades,” the master plan says.

“Opportunities appear to exist to provide additional runway take-off distance, to further strengthen the capacity for larger aircraft and more airlines operating to a wider range of destinations, albeit subject to satisfying CASA around certain safety matters, including the management of jet blast impacts off airport.

“Operations by larger aircraft are, nonetheless, not precluded. They are however subject to considerable uncertainty around what the limits of possibility are, especially in relation to the types of aircraft that offer the lowest cost base and bring the most affordable travel outcomes.”

As well as the airport, the draft master plan also considers what may be required to establish a business to contribute to the regional economic development, tourism and employment.

Council and the NSW Government believe the economic and employment growth outlook for the airport precinct is “immense”.

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The Shellharbour Airport Regionally Significant Employment Precinct Profile, released in September last year, identifies that by 2041, the airport precinct will be a “vibrant business hub leveraging the operations at Shellharbour Airport, which can lead regional economic development, tourism, and employment”.

“Development to its full potential (including development of the Shellharbour Aviation Business Park and potential future Illawarra Regional Business Park) would see the growth of the airport precinct increase exponentially, generating transformative future employment and economic value for the region,” the report said.

Cr Homer said airports formed an integral part of the Australian economy and were critical in supporting communities and enhancing the city’s economic performance.

“Access to local aviation services has a positive boost for our city’s local trade and tourism to grow and provides improved economic outcomes for the entire community,” he said.

“Shellharbour Airport is estimated to service Australia’s ninth largest catchment area, however in terms of airport traffic, Shellharbour Airport ranks 75th.

“This discrepancy may offer significant opportunities for our community and visitors.

“There have been many complexities worked through in the development of the draft Airport Master Plan, and now we are seeking wider community feedback on it.”

Monday’s community drop-in sessions will be held at Home Aged Community Centre (HACC), Albion Park, from 9:30 – 11 am and at Shellharbour Civic Centre from 5:30 – 7 pm. To register click here or phone 4221 6111.

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