Multiple international routes, a major terminal expansion, a new “campus style” commercial precinct and a footprint almost four times its current size – those are the cornerstones of the Newcastle Airport’s new master plan.
Fairfax Media can reveal that airport CEO Dr Peter Cock will launch the master plan this morning, which details how the Williamtown facility will grow in the next two decades, points to major infrastructure projects, and sets out a vision of how the site could look in 2076.
It marks another milestone in Newcastle Airport’s transition from a “tin shed” to a facility that could beat Badgery’s Creek to the punch and become the state’s second international airport.
What’s in the master plan?
“I think it’s really important that we have a proper vision of how this place will roll out over the next 60 years,” Dr Cock told Fairfax Media ahead of the launch.
“It is important that this region can trust us to build it the right way so it can grow and expand.”
The master plan predicts the precinct will generate an extra 3000 jobs in the next two decades, with more food, beverage and retail outlet space and a “campus style” business precinct developed. The site is expected to grow from 28 hectares to about 110 hectares.
A design for the new-look terminal is expected to be released later this year and will be a two storey building with almost double the floor space, stretching further to the west and south east.
Dr Cock said construction would begin within five years – the arrivals area is likely to be the first to undergo a change.
“The new terminal is a really exciting facility,” he said.
“[Newcastle Airport] will grow up in a quantum leap again – multiple international destinations in the next 20 years would be my vision for what this airport needs.
“The forecourt, [for] people arriving at the airport, it’ll feel a lot different. It’ll be quite a big open plaza with nice landscaping but [we will] also do security by design.
“We’ve gone from the tin shed to this and, I’m not sure if it’s quite as big of a jump, but it will feel and look very different.”
Newcastle Airport has had record passenger numbers in recent months, with 1.28 million using the facility in 2017 – about 60,000 more than the previous year.
Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald, who will speak at the master plan launch on Thursday morning, said the $1.1 billion impact the airport has on the region’s economy was “only the beginning”.
“The plan provides a clear vision for this vital piece of infrastructure to continue to serve the Hunter community well into the future,” he said.
A new pedestrian plaza in front of the terminal, more car parking spaces and road upgrades for better traffic flow and access are also part of the plan.
Read more: Airport passenger numbers keep climbing
The vision for 2076 includes a reference to a “mixed-mode rail link” and train station. But Dr Cock said this was a matter of “being linked in to the region’s planning”.
The question of a second runway has also been put to bed.
Newcastle Airport has a deal with the Royal Australian Air Force – from which it leases the airport land – to share the existing runway for the life of the lease, which runs until 2075 and has three 10-year extension options.
Dr Cock said the lone runway was enough to accommodate Newcastle Airport’s forecast growth and could handle single-aisle aircraft that could reach Vietnam, Singapore and Bali.
Thursday’s master plan unveiling comes amid a big few days for the airport, with the first flight to Adelaide set to depart Williamtown today, public attention from an international airline CEO last weekend and a trip to Routes Asia earlier this week – a conference where airport and airline representatives discuss possible new international connections.
While Dr Cock said he was in talks to try to land Newcastle’s first international service since a brief period in the early 2000s, he wouldn’t comment any further. He identified Fiji, Bali and New Zealand among the several routes that piqued his interest.
But he said it was “exciting” to read comments that Air Asia X founder and Group CEO Tony Fernandes made to AFR Weekend on Saturday saying the company was “very interested in Newcastle” and Toowoomba for new routes to Kuala Lumpur.
The company recently announced a plan to move its Victorian service from Tullamarine Airport to the smaller Avalon facility.
“Avalon has been trying for years and years to get that first international route,” Dr Cock said.
“Hobart has been trying and trying and trying. So to break into the international market is exceedingly difficult. I salute Tony Fernandes – an airline CEO who’s being a bit visionary and seeing what value regional airports can add. I was really buoyed by that.
“It’s kind of a new way of thinking. And his thinking will make other airline CEOs think about that and what value we can bring.”
While no official timeline has been announced for an international route to start in Newcastle, the master plan’s five yearly forecast of passenger numbers predicts 82,900 international travellers will pass through the airport in 2021.
“We’ve got a really large catchment and logically we’d have a number of international services,” Dr Cock said.
‘Three airport strategy’ for NSW
He said he was keen to make Newcastle the state’s second international airport before Badgery’s Creek is up and running in 2026.
But Dr Cock said it wasn’t a matter of Newcastle competing with the Sydney airports – instead he could see the Hunter facility being part of a “three airport strategy” that could serve regional NSW north of the capital.
“Badgery’s Creek will be bigger than us for sure. We’re not going to ever be that size, I believe,” he said.
Read more:Fresh record for Newcastle Airport
“But our focus is this region and this region needs international traffic and international connections. Whether Badgery’s is smaller or bigger, I don’t mind.
“This region is a big region in itself and shouldn’t be seen as a suburb of Sydney, but we can assist. In this big geographic area I think three international airports will work really well.”