The Australian Airports Association (AAA) has supported calls for more funding for increased government security requirements at regional airports.
AAA Policy Director Simon Bourke said media reports that Whyalla Council may experience a $1 million funding shortfall to meet new security requirements highlighted the significant challenges facing regional airports.
He said while the industry was committed to ensuring security requirements were met, the high cost of compliance would put a strain on already struggling regional airports, most of which were owned by local councils.
“Regional airports nationally face a $25 million shortfall to upgrade terminals and infrastructure so they can meet the needs of the government’s new security requirements,” he said.
“This is a significant burden for smaller airports that simply do not have the economies of scale to offset these costs.
“With 60 per cent of regional airports already facing persistent budget deficits, it is essential government and industry work together to recognise the real impact of these changes.
“The AAA urges the federal government to provide additional funding to meet the full cost of implementing the new requirements and ensure a safe, secure and sustainable future for our regional airports and the communities they serve.”
The federal government allocated $50.1 million for regional airport security upgrades in the 2018- 19 budget to meet the costs of new equipment.
The funds do not cover costs associated with infrastructure and terminal improvements to make room for new equipment and ensure smooth passenger traffic flows within terminals.
There is also no funding for ongoing costs associated with operating and maintaining newly installed equipment.
Regional airports already face a $170 million aeronautical infrastructure deficit over the next decade, excluding the impact of additional security costs.
Member for Grey Rowan Ramsey said he didn’t expect that Whyalla air travelers would be disadvantaged due to the cost of the security measures.
He said he had passed amendments in Parliament to allow the regulator flexibility in dealing with airports with low passenger numbers.
“I fully expect suitable arrangements will be able to be made to ensure Whyalla and Port Lincoln passengers are not unfairly penalised,” he said.
“(The costs) will be managed within the flexibility granted within the legislation.”