By TOM GANNON
LATROBE Regional Airport’s future is ready to take off as council looks to grow development opportunities.
At its most recent meeting, Latrobe City adopted a key strategic document that sets out a four-year framework as part of a larger 20-year airport development plan for the council-owned facility.
The document considers new airport precincts, development opportunities and sets the requirements for future funding, government support and the timeline for aviation infrastructure upgrades.
Latrobe City Mayor Sharon Gibson said the developments could lead to the facility following a similar path to Avalon Airport, near Geelong.
“I’d love to see it being the Avalon of the east,” Cr Gibson said.
“We’ve got a facility here, so let’s see how we can utilise it to the betterment of our community going forward.
“If it was done properly, it would actually be a great way forward for such a large catchment area.”
With population growth in south-east Melbourne and the wider Gippsland region, an airport boasting commercial capacity would provide an alternative to Tullamarine Airport and service the travel needs of the region’s residents.
Latrobe Regional Airport board chairman Cr Graeme Middlemiss said commercial flights to Canberra and Sydney are on the radar.
“We get constant demand from people for a service that would be (the) Valley to Canberra, Sydney and return,” he told The Express.
“We regularly present proposals to passenger operators saying ‘we are ready if you think it would be viable, we are ready to start tomorrow’ so we’ve got our terminal in a situation where if anybody was interested in a passenger service, we are ready tomorrow.”
Latrobe Regional Airport once had a six-day a week service to Sydney via Albury which was later abandoned with the cessation of Hazelton Airlines in 2001.
Council is also looking to boost employment opportunities at the airport by attracting businesses who are looking to relocate their aircraft related operations.
Cr Middlemiss said increased rental prices at other airports could make Latrobe Regional Airport much more enticing to businesses struggling with additional pressure.
“Rents and pressure on tenants are increasing,” he said.
“In Moorabbin, where many of the minor aircraft industries are based, things like propellers, radios and repairs, we’re looking to say to these people if you are suffering cost stress down there, come up here.”
Latrobe Regional Airport is also currently approaching a number of training providers about possible relocation, which should also bring more jobs to the Valley.
Cr Middlemiss said making sure land was available and ready with things like electricity and water would be an important step in making the airport more attractive.
“Anything around aerospace we are quite prepared to chase and the first step is to make us ready if someone says ‘I’d like to come up and I’d like to build a large hanger, where would I go?’ and we can say here,” Cr Middlemiss said.
“Our first step needs to be to service and make land available.
“We just upgraded the appearance of the terminal inside, painted it again, we are refurbishing it to make it more attractive.”