THE state government has come on board with $1.27 million for the expansion of the Orange airport more than three months after the federal government committed to the project.
The project is estimated to cost $13.9 million, funded between state and federal governments, Orange City Council and Cadia Valley Operations.
Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner announced the funding yesterday. He blamed the delay on lengthy processes used by the government to determine the spending was necessary.
“We’ve got different processes and different criteria that we have to go through to ensure it’s not a pork barrelling exercise,” Mr Stoner said.
“Andrew Gee has been lobbying very hard for us to come up with the money and we have, but we had to go through that process that’s why a little bit of extra time in delivering our commitment of the 1.27 million.”
Mr Stoner suggested the expansion may pave the way for another airliner to challenge Rex’s monopoly on the region.
He said a larger runway would accommodate larger planes.
Orange would have to see a dramatic growth in order for a second airliner to be viable. A plane must carry at least 20 passengers to be economically viable. Rex Airlines runs five flights out of Orange per day and passenger numbers are lower than 100 per day.
Mr Stoner said the government are trying to achieve more growth in the community by expanding the airport.
“Having a longer runway means you can take all sorts of aircraft up to the larger jet aircraft,” he said.
“If we achieve what we want to achieve with a growth in this community and its economy you’re going to see more demand for air services.
“That’s what attracts other air carriers that’s what brings competition to a route like Orange Sydney, Orange WA, Orange Melbourne or wherever.”
Orange Airport spokesperson Chris Gryllis said the expansion of the airport would create 200 jobs for the region.
“We hope with the expansion of the airport business will extend more dramatically if and when we get a second airliner,” he said.
“Hopefully another airliner will come to Orange.
“If they can’t make money they won’t come to Orange.”
Mr Stoner said he believed the expansion of the airport could make Orange the base of mining operations for Australia.
“It will also help support new activities by Newcrest Mining in the region by enabling the company to increase its fly-in fly-out operations based out of Orange and train interstate employees at the Orange TAFE mining simulator.”
The project is expected to be completed in 2014.