The Committee for the Hunter has identified the upgrade of Newcastle Airport's runway to international standard as the top regional priority in the May federal budget.
The committee's budget submission argues the $56 million project would "anchor the diversification of the region's economy."
"The Hunter's leaders and peak bodies are unanimous in their support for this project - we speak to the Australian government with a unified voice. A voice that is backed by the inclusion of the Newcastle Airport runway upgrade on Infrastructure Australia's 2021 Infrastructure Priority List," the committee's submission says.
It cited a survey of more than 1000 Hunter residents that found more than 89 per cent of those surveyed supported the runway upgrade.
"They know it will change lives and the outlook for their businesses, with 92 per cent agreeing the project will grow local jobs and the economy," the committee's submission said.
"Such is the grassroots support for this upgrade that almost 40 per cent of the local community indicate they are likely to change their vote based on support for the project."
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The runway upgrade needs to coincide with major works to the Williamtown RAAF base airfield in support of the F-35 fleet. Following a meeting with airport chief executive Peter Cock early last month, defence minister Linda Reynolds said she supported both projects occurring at the same time.
"If we do the works together it minimises the impact at the airport for both and it reduces costs," she said.
It is estimated the runway upgrade 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. The committee's submission said while the project was relatively small, it would deliver a big return on investment.
"These returns would be multiplied if the project were to be undertaken as part of an integrated plan for diversification of the Hunter economy the committee's submission says.
On the back of Prime Minister Scott Morrison's recent interest in the Hunter, the committee has invited him to hold a cabinet meeting in the region.
"It would be a tremendous vote of confidence in our region and demonstrate your commitment to our community," Committee for the Hunter chief executive Alice Thompson said.
"We are aware that COVID-19 presents some challenges. As the vaccine roll out continues and there is more confidence, we hope that you will consider this invitation and invite your ministry to share the inspiring Hunter story."
Kevin Rudd brought his cabinet meeting to Newcastle in 2008. A full cabinet meeting was held at CSIRO, Mayfield followed by a community cabinet meeting at Lambton High School.
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