Council will next week vote whether to submit a $5 million application to the Federal Government's Regional Airports Fund to extend Ballarat Airport's main runway.
An extension of the runway from its current 1200m to 1800m would allow for larger aircraft like the Dash 8 and SAAB-340, the most popular regional passenger aircraft, to operate in and out of Ballarat.
It would also provide a strong base for the City of Ballarat to launch its plan for a Ballarat Aviation Emergency Service Hub to be based at the airfield in Mitchell Park, allowing for rapid response to emergencies, particularly fires, across the state.
If the application is successful, council would match the $5 million funding in its 2020/21 budget.
According to council, the runway upgrade would allow Ballarat Airport to create $426.1 million in economic output and provide 1471 jobs in aviation and other businesses using the facility.
Cr Samantha McIntosh, who pushed the runway expansion during her time as mayor, said it was important that a city the size of Ballarat had an appropriate airport with the ability to deliver aviation, business and emergency services to the broader region.
"This conversation is not about connecting to Tullamarine but out in to regions across the country. Fire bombers, Field Air and other aviation businesses operate with the shorter runway but we'd like to know we can respond to the needs of the BWEZ employment zone ... a lot of businesses were attracted there because they know the possibility of road, rail and air links."
Cr McIntosh said there was support from the Central Highlands group of councils who were all keen to see better connectivity in the region.
"It's important the community don't get afraid - this is not about more flight paths but better use of our aviation precinct, more diversity and business opportunities and about having an airport that's current and relevant. What you see there today hasn't really changed in 50 years."
The Regional Airports Program will provide $100 million over the next four years to undertake works at regional airports, with $45 million available in the current application round.
"For many regional communities, the local airport provides an essential link to the rest of Australia," said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack in October when the current founding round was announced.
"The Regional Airports Program will make sure regional airports meet the needs of communities and local industry now and into the future.
"We want more people - especially families and small businesses - moving to and staying in the regions, and better connectivity through airports is a vital part of that plan."
According to council, extension of the main north-south runway at Ballarat would enhance airport operations, bring economic benefits, and build on current airport strengths including the established maintenance and servicing business and the large land area that could be used for commercial purposes.
The airport access road has cut through the main runway for many decades.
If council votes to go ahead with the submission they will need to act quickly, with the Department of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development website showing applications for round one of the Regional Airports Fund closing the following day on Thursday December 12.
And if works go ahead, council would need to fund a temporary upgrade to McCartneys Road to provide alternate access to the airport for development of the road network in the Ballarat West Employment Zone which stretches out to the airport.
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