The upgrade of Newcastle Airport's runway to international standard has moved a step closer following talks between Defence Minister Linda Reynolds and the airport.
Minister Reynolds met with airport chief executive Peter Cock on Monday prior to attending the Joint Strike Fighter event at Williamtown.
While the government is yet to commit to funding the $56 million project, Minister Reynolds agreed it made sense for the project to coincide with scheduled works to upgrade the RAAF airfield for the F-35.
"Defence is funding the defence component of the upgrade and that work will start mid-year," she said.
"We are having very cooperative discussions with Newcastle Airport. We will fund the defence component and Newcastle Airport is seeking funding for their component so we can do the works together later this year."
"If we do the works together it minimises the impact at the airport for both and it reduces costs."
Dr Cock said he was encouraged by Monday's discussions.
"Their willingness to look at different solutions to deliver this key piece of infrastructure is a great sign of faith in the region and in Newcastle Airport," he said.
"Minister Reynolds clearly has an understanding of the regional benefits that would flow from the upgrade. And whilst the Defence budget is finite, the acknowledgment that there are cost savings and mutual benefits if we work in partnership on this project is very encouraging."
Few projects from regional Australia in recent decades have attracted such a united show of support from business and industry groups and from across the political divide.
It is estimated the project would would create 4500 jobs and generate an estimated $12.7 billion in economic benefits through international airfreight, industrial expansion and increased tourism traffic over the next two decades.
The upgrade would save up to eight hours travel time for the 1.3 million people who travel from around the Hunter to international destinations each year.
Management consultant Oliver Lamb who worked with Newcastle Airport on its business case for the runway extension told the Newcastle Herald last year that international connectivity with regional centres was becoming increasingly important in the twenty-first century.
"Around the world what we are seeing is the emergence destinations that haven't previously been on the map for non-stop flights and tourism," he said.
"Gone are the days when people could spend three or four weeks on vacation, people now want short breaks to different locations."
IN THE NEWS: