A $6 MILLION project that will increase the regional significance of the Ballina Byron Gateway Airport has been officially opened.
The extension to the airport apron has increased the number of parking bays for jets and general aviation aircraft.
Airport manager Neil Weatherson said it was a major step forward for the airport, the town and the Northern Rivers.
“We can now accommodate and park 14 aircraft simultaneously, so it’s a big improvement … I am very proud of what we have achieved.” he said.
Minister for Regional Development, Regional Australia, Local Government and the Arts, Simon Crean, joined Page MP Janelle Saffin at the airport for the event.
Mr Crean said the Ballina airport had come a long way since he first visited with former Page MP Harry Woods in the 1990s.
“I have no doubt this investment (apron extension) will bring in more commercial investments,” he said.
The airport can now accommodate diverting aircraft from other airports in times of emergency.
Good news for passengers is the greater choice of flights as the improvements allow for increased daily services and less delays as on time performance will improve. It’s also great news for the region as the increased number of services means that more tourists can fly direct into Ballina rather than over the border.
The airport has been going from strength to strength with passenger numbers steadily increasing from 2791,615 in 2009/10 to 344,000 20012/13. The forecast for 2015 is 500,000 passengers which is a boost to the local economy
The apron extension was funded with $3.5 million from the Federal Government’s Regional Development Australia Fund combined with $2.5 million from Ballina Shire Council.
Mayor David Wright thanked the Government for its assistance, saying it had invested more than $14 million in the shire over the past few years.
“I would also like to applaud the council, because without its foresight we would not have this airport, which is an incredible asset,” he said.
Ms Saffin said construction of the apron extension supported 125 jobs and would deliver a long-term boost to the tourism and business sectors.
“The Ballina Byron Gateway Airport is a vital link in our economy,” she said.
“Airport staff and retailers, transport operators, tourism and accommodation providers will all benefit directly from this project.”