With longer and hotter fire seasons, basing more firefighting aircraft at Ballarat will become a necessity.
The $10 million to extend the Ballarat airport's runway - the federal government and the City of Ballarat have committed $5 million each to the project - is a step to making this a reality, according to aerodrome users.
Aerovision, a fire aircraft reconnaissance and supervision company, is based at the Ballarat airport.
The company's owner, Daryl Chibnall, said all of western Victoria would benefit from the investment.
"Most fires will occur on days with strong northerly winds, the runway extension is our northerly one," he said.
"So what (a longer runway) is going to do is afford us, as operators, is a bigger safety margin - there will be days we can operate on with improved safety margin, whereas before, some days we couldn't fly because of those margins."
There are also benefits for business and industry with the new runway, he added.
City of Ballarat mayor Ben Taylor emphasised this - he said as well as a proposed emergency services aircraft hub, general aviation businesses could find a home at the adjacent Ballarat West Employment Zone.
"Industry can come off the freeway straight onto the runway," he said.
"Maintenance, storage, flights - this is something we've been talking about for years and years, now we've actually got the $5 million."
He cautioned more will need to be spent for stage two of the project, which would involve strengthening the tarmac for heavier aircraft.
In a statement, he added the completed lengthened and strengthened runway is "expected to accommodate an additional 14 businesses, 77 new direct jobs and 255 additional indirect jobs - above the current 100 jobs located at the site".
Mr Chibnall said that second funding stage is "vital".
"It will give us the ability to use the length," he said.
"Once you've got a longer runway, you can land bigger aircraft, and once you get bigger aircraft, you need the next stage of supporting that aircraft with maintenance.
"There's a number of allied industries - stripping paint off aircraft, refurbishing aircraft, things like engines and propellers, paintwork, there's a whole range of opportunities."
The Committee for Ballarat's chief executive, Michael Poulton, said the funding will "enable the opportunity for growth".
"The Committee has long supported connectivity for the region, and we see the airport's continued development as critical to an integrated transport network, that includes road, rail and air," he said in a statement.
"With the limitations at Moorabbin and Essendon airports, we see Ballarat as having the capacity to offer a competitive alternatives and this investment in the infrastructure required, will see these prospects realised."
He's echoed by federal Ballarat MP Catherine King, who promised $14 million for the airport at the last election.
"Ballarat is a growing regional centre, and we need an airport to match," she said.
"Regional airports are assets to cities and regions across the country, but too often they have been forgotten when it comes to funding under this government."
Other airport users have also welcomed the announcement - Field Air's managing director Peter Mackay said it's a "fabulous opportunity".
"It's got really good promise of increasing employment opportunities in Ballarat, and providing the infrastructure that will attract other aviation business," he said.
Pilot Chris Alizzi has been flying out of Ballarat for more than 20 years, and said infrastructure had been neglected for decades.
"Bendigo's long had a superior airport, (the funding) brings us in line with them and ahead of Geelong," he said.
"The airport was constrained by runway length - this is the first stage, but there's no point upgrading buildings and other infrastructure without lengthening the runway.
"Once upon a time, it did have a long runway, when it was a military Air Force training base, but it was cut short, so it's returning it to its original length.
"It's suitable for light aircraft and training, but this will bring a whole raft of new aircraft to Ballarat."
When complete, many hope regional passenger services could be flown out of Ballarat, similar to Bendigo.
Cr Taylor said the financial aspects for flights to Sydney were "beginning to stack up".
"Ideally, what we'd love to see is the access, like Bendigo, flying to Sydney, why can't we have that opportunity here?" he said.
Mr Poulton said that would rely on market demand.
"Ultimately it will be the travelling public who will decide the fate of passenger services and this can only be made possible with further investment in infrastructure, beyond this $10m investment," he said.
"In the meantime, there are jobs and opportunities associated with aviation activities and the timing of this announcement is significant as the region looks to recover from COVID-19."
Mr Chibnall said it was good to finally see action after years of work from airport committees and council officers.
The fire trends are "here to stay", and action, like upgrading the airport, needs to be taken now.
"It's important to me, as a stakeholder, I see the big picture for people in Ballarat and central Victoria - they're the winners," he said.
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