City of Ballarat says it has found a cheaper option for the Ballarat Aviation Hub after costings revealed last year showed the project could blow out by more than $60 million.
The council called for a review of the emergency services aviation hub budget late last year when costings from Emergency Management Victoria revealed the project could cost between $70 and $100 million – as much as triple its original $33 million price tag – and provide “minimal” economic benefits to the city.
City of Ballarat mayor Samantha McIntosh said the project was now pegged at $50 million and ready to pitch for state and federal funding.
If built, the hub would become a central emergency services airport which would store major aircraft used to service the state and South Australia.
However an Emergency Management Victoria (EMV) spokesperson said a feasibility study, to refine the scope and cost of the project, was still underway.
“Once the options analysis is complete the project steering committee will consider whether investment is warranted and potential funding approaches,” they said.
“The City of Ballarat has been advised that it needs to explore funding and consider setting aside funding as part of its own budgeting arrangements.”
Cr McIntosh said much of the cost blow out could be attributed to requirements for the large air-tankers.
The revised budget made the project “very realistic”, she said.
“With extensive communication through all of the expert fields we are very confident that we can provide what is required for the larger air bombers on a length of 1.8 to 2 kilometres which means we can do it for $50 million – that’s the whole kit and caboodle,” she said.
City of Ballarat chief executive officer Justine Linley said the hub would provide “billions worth” of asset protection to the state and Australia.
“It’s not just about building a better runway or having a services facility here, it’s what that actually does for Victoria, it is billions worth of dollars of asset protection so it saves our community a huge amount, let alone saving lives,” she said.
Federal Infrastructure Minister Darren Chester, who was onsite at the airport on Tuesday, said the project “fit really neatly” within an agenda for decentralisation.
Mr Chester said it was too early to comment on the feasibility of the proposal.