Economic study to assess relocation of Shepparton’s aerodrome

By Thomas Moir

A study into the viability of bringing passenger flights and air freight services to Shepparton could soon be set for launch.

But relocating Shepparton’s aerodrome to open these possibilities is expected to cost somewhere in the altitude of $100million, almost double the project cost estimated last year.

An economic study is set to soon take flight to help assess the benefits the aerodrome relocation project will land for the region.

The possibility to more directly access export markets, airfreight routes and the validity of an intercity passenger service mark key opportunities to be assessed.

‘‘To take advantage of opportunities for both passenger and freight movements, then we need to start looking at developing an airport that would accommodate both passenger and freight movements,’’ Greater Shepparton City Council’s sustainable development director Geraldine Christou said.

‘‘One of things we need to do is undertake an economic benefit analysis in relation to the relocation of the aerodrome.’’

Ms Christou said the outcome of the feasibility study might help dictate key opportunities and highlight which elements of a relocation would be prioritised.

‘‘That will provide us with... the most lucrative opportunities to pursue and that will assist us in trying to attract funding in relation to relocation,’’ she said.

‘‘And how any future relocation would be staged.’’

If it determines passenger flights were the most lucrative option to develop, Ms Christou said that could be worked into the project’s first stage.

She envisaged a partnership approach between the council and other tiers of government to undertake the mooted economic benefit analysis, which would, in turn, inform the council’s ask to other tiers of government.

The study would ask the question, ‘‘is there an opportunity to attract an airline to develop commercial flights?’’ Ms Christou said.

It would also consider what the demand for air freight and passenger flights was now, and also what the demand would be in the future, taking variables like potential rail developments into account.

In a council ‘‘ask of government’’ document from last year, the relocation project was estimated at $52million.

Ms Christou this week said the project was likely to cost closer to $100million.

Council received a feasibility study in 2016.

The council director highlighted a number of issues with the current facility, including it being surrounded by residential development, and the existing runway being insufficient for bigger planes to land.

‘‘If we want to attract larger planes, and get a passenger service, or freight service, we need a longer and stronger runway,’’ Ms Christou said.

‘‘If we’re looking at expanding that opportunity, we need to look at other locations.’’

The council would not be drawn on any update on potential sites for a relocated airport facility.

Ms Christou described the existing facility as ‘‘fit for purpose’’ but added opportunities needed to be looked at ‘‘to secure the future of this region’’.

‘‘We are restricted... our current location limits our commercial potential,’’ she said.

‘‘And of course being surrounded by residential and commercial developments restricts our ability to extend the main runway.’’

The existing aerodrome supports aircraft under 5700kg and is used for limited freight and charter services.

The goal is for a runway longer than 2km, the development of key freight links and the possibility of direct flights to Asia for exports.