Airport plan fails to take off

Bendigo Weekly | Bendigo Weekly | 02-Feb-2018

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Residents should be aghast at council’s proposals to spend a further $10 milllion on the Bendigo Airport. 

Already about $20m has been spent on runways, buildings, water treatment and the acquisition of land. For many years various council decisions and council officers have promoted the idea that a commercial airline could operate from Bendigo. This is utter nonsense.

Council itself at the Bendigo Airport Panel Hearing conceded the following when it submitted: 

There is a misconception among residents that the proposed redevelopment will result in a dramatic and significant increase in aircraft movements. 

This is factually incorrect. 

It is forecast that there will be a gradual two per cent increase in aircraft movements per year, which is generally in line with projections for similarly sized general aviation aerodromes. 

An increase of this magnitude will be imperceptible to most people.

A two per cent increase in aircraft movements per year translates into less than two extra flights per day.

The  2009 Australian Government Aviation White Paper states: 

The regional airline industry has gone through a major rationalisation since deregulation. 

While there has been substantial growth in regional air traffic and overall capacity, there has been a decrease in the number of regional airports served and in the number of airlines serving them, and a decline in the number of flights to regional airports as a result of a trend towards the use of larger, more cost efficient aircraft. 

Recent Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) research has found that over the period 1984 to 2008 the number of regional airports served by scheduled airlines fell from 278 to 138, with the steepest decline on low density routes. The number of airlines serving regional airports fell from 53 to 27. 

There has also been a high attrition rate and turnover in the industry. 

In many cases improvements to road networks and motor vehicles made air transport less competitive.

Despite this evidence City of Greater Bendigo council continues to push for more money to be spent on the Bendigo Airport on some “pie in the sky” plan that a commercial airline could operate profitably to and from Bendigo. This will do nothing to help the poor residents of Bendigo.

There is no evidence that the economies of scale for an airline servicing the likes of Bendigo Bank staff or Keech Castings would survive.

We don’t have manufacturing and agricultural export capabilities like they do at Toowoomba where it is efficient to fly to and from Asia. There are no local large scale fresh produce or abattoir industries and insufficient passenger numbers.

In any case the new runway can only accommodate aircraft with a freight carrying capacity of less than 10 tonnes (equivalent of just one small container).

This money could be better spent on the 2009 council promised swimming pool for Strathfieldsaye, or on providing HACCS services to our ageing population or many other needs such as road and drainage infrastructure. 

- By Colin Burns 

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