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October 23, 2021

Ballina has big plans for airport expansion

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Ballina Byron Gateway Airport. (file pic)
Ballina Byron Gateway Airport. (file pic)

Darren Coyne

International flights could be flying direct to the Ballina/Byron Gateway Airport once proposed upgrades area completed, according to Ballina mayor David Wright.

Cr Wright told Echonetdaily that councilors would be considering the next stage of leasing the airport at its 22 January meeting.

At that meeting, the council is expected to appoint a consultant to drive and oversee the leasing of the airport, which currently receives about 500,000 passengers a year.

Ballina mayor David Wright. (file pic)
Ballina mayor David Wright. (file pic)

Cr Wright said improvements to facilities at the airport would increase that number to around 750,000 a year, making it the second largest regional airport in New South Wales behind Newcastle.

Cr Wright confirmed that Ballina would be applying for $6 million from a $50 million funding package announced by the state government last week to upgrade regional airports.

He said the funding would be used to triple the size of the departure terminal, build more shops, toilets and a sports bar.

‘We’re pushing ahead with leasing the airport and if we get this funding it will only make it a more attractive option for investors,’ Cr Wright said.

Already the council has received plenty of interest from investors both in Australia and overseas.

Cr Wright was confident the Ballina bid would be successful given the annual 10 per cent growth of airport passenger numbers.

NSW Minister for Regional Tourism John Barilaro last week announced that priority would be given to projects that benefitted regional tourism destinations, “demonstrated by overnight visitation, enhanced aviation outcomes, visitor expenditure and passenger movements”.

Cr Wright said Ballina ticked all the boxes.

‘I got an email from Kuala Lumpur yesterday inviting us to a conference where all the big investors will be present,’ he said.

‘We won’t be going because we’re not ready yet … we’ve got to put in place a professional process with the leasing to ensure ratepayers get the best value.

He said the consultants employed to drive forward the leasing of the airport would look at various scenarios such as whether extra land, owned by the council and surrounding the airport, could be added to make the facility even more attractive to investors.

‘It’s the biggest asset we have in Ballina and we want to make sure that ratepayers are looked after,’ he said.

‘We have to do work on the runway if we want to attract international flights from overseas coming to Ballina.’

Meanwhile, Lismore’s mayor Jenny Dowell said her council would also be applying for a share of the $50 million funding package but had not yet decided what to apply for.

‘I’ve spoken with the general manager about that and he is following it up,’ she said.

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  1. Ballina would be crazy to not jump at this opportunity. They would grab a huge slice of the Market from Coolangatta Airport if they could facilitate International Flights.
    They may then even look at dragging some of their ‘amenities’ out of the 20th Century and grab some of the real Tourist Trade from Byron Bay and Brunswick Heads which are almost swamped by the number of Tourists they receive. The Big Question for Ballina is, ‘What does Byron Shire have that Ballina doesn’t’? Maybe they need to do what Byron did; go up to Noosa Heads and speak with its Mayor and his staff.

  2. Ballina Council’s vision and process are impressive. Increased wealth & success would be achieved for the entire Northern Rivers Region should this project be brought to fruition. I hope a collaborative approach can be adopted with Lismore City Council. A critical mass of visitors arriving at both airports would be an economic boost much needed in this area. Hopefully it would mean funds would become available for some very serious sorting out of local roads, rail transport, walking & cycling options and traffic flow management (to all centres, villages & tourist sites).

  3. I am surprised that Byron Bay Shire Council are not want to get involved in this project since a lot of these visitors are actually wanting to go to Byron Bay!

  4. Of course the airport is going to expand further and further because of our local tourism market. There are SO MANY priorities needed to be done before changing into international status. We need improved infrastructure, public health services, community services, maintained environmental protection areas. We need trains ASAP to fix the public transport problems. We don’t want overcrowded undermaintained roads, full buses and that. Trains is fast, sustainable and most efficient mode of transport.

    Building a rail station at the airport would be very ideal. Don’t want Broken Head Road to be packed!

  5. We simply do not need this. There has been zero lack of community consultation on this issue. Visitors flying into Ballina airport simply head straight to Byron Bay. The dollars are spent in Byron Bay and Ballina residents pick up the damage bill. Can you imagine the noise to residents, the pollution and damage to our pristine environment of having an International sized plane dive bombing into Ballina Airport. People don’t come to Ballina for another Western Sydney. They come to Ballina for our pristine environment. The airport is too large now. Coolangatta airport is virtually the same traveling distance to Byron Bay and the Nations resources should be on expanding that airport. It does not make economical sense to have two large airports in such close proximity.


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