Wagga Wagga Airport

Update at July 2019

The current leasing arrangements for the airport impedes Wagga Wagga City Council’s capacity to accumulate funds for much needed capital improvements or upgrades to the airport facility and to make the precinct attractive to capital investment from the private sector.

The Wagga Wagga airport is the gateway to the Riverina by air. The current passenger terminal facilities have been outgrown and don’t meet the expectations of the travelling public for a city the size of Wagga Wagga and certainly will not be adequate for a city of 100,000 people.

In June 2019 it was announcement by the federal government, that $50 million will be spent on new security equipment at 64 terminals around the nation.

The Department of Home Affairs advises that "Airports will continue to meet the operating costs for the new equipment” and has not indicated whether Wagga Wagga will be required to do any upgrades, but has said that each airport has assessed "risk profiles" and "aligned security requirements" with each "threat analysis". The logistical and cost burden on the existing terminal operations is unclear at this time.

Committee for Wagga is supportive of the Wagga Wagga City Council continuing to explore means by which a more favourable tenancy arrangement can be obtained with the Federal Government, which will enable both commercial development and a much-enhanced experience for the travelling public.

Background

The Wagga Wagga Airport is a critical piece of transport infrastructure connecting the regional population of over 185,000 people directly to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. The land is currently owned by the Commonwealth of Australia and leased to Wagga Wagga City Council until 2025. This arrangement is unusual and restricts growth and development activity at the airport. Under the current lease arrangement prospective investors considering the land for development are unable to gain secure tenure of title from the Council and therefore will continue to seek opportunities elsewhere. 

In most instances, regional Aerodromes across Australia were established by the Commonwealth for military use. As defence activity has become more concentrated in fewer locations and regular passenger transport has become the primary function of many airports the Federal Government recognised the need to transfer ownership to Local Government. Under the Aerodrome Local Ownership Plan (ALOP) a transfer of ownership for 230 out of 234 regional aerodromes was undertaken between 1992 and 1993, in the majority of instances the transfer was made for $1 and additional funding was provided to the local Council for maintenance and capital works. Wagga’s airport was one of the 4 aerodromes not transferred due to the presence of the RAAF Base adjacent to the airport. The RAAF Base has since been reclassified as a non-flying base and interactions between the Base and the taxiways reduced. 

Ownership by the Federal Government rather than either Council or the private sector significantly affects the city’s ability to attract investment and economic development at the airport due to lack of financial security over the long term. Land adjacent an airport is valuable real estate, evidenced in Canberra where the airport is privately owned. In 1998 the ownership of the Canberra Airport transferred to private ownership. At the time of the sale, the infrastructure was ageing and no significant structures existed aside from the terminal and hangers. Since then the land has been developed to feature a new $420M terminal and 3 unique business parks accommodating over 7,000 employees in 170,000m2 of office and retail space. 

While the aerodrome at Wagga Wagga exhibits different characteristics and serves a different demographic to the Canberra Airport, the opportunities for economic development through private investment should be recognised and a mix of ownership between Federal Government, Local Government and the private sector be considered as outlined below: 

  • Transfer to Local Government the ownership of land accommodating the runway, taxiways, terminal, carpark and associated facilities. 

  • Federal Government to continue ownership of land accommodating the RAAF Base to ensure the Defence Force’s capability is maintained as a high priority. 

  • Private investment opportunities made available for land suitable for aviation related development. 

98% of regional aerodromes have been transferred to local government ownership.


Status: 

Planning: No 

Cost Estimate: No 

Funding: No 

Key Stakeholders: 

Wagga Wagga City Council 
Federal Government 
Carriers and user groups 
Committee 4 Wagga 

Recommendation: 

Initiate and progress discussions with the Federal Government to transfer ownership of the airport to the City of Wagga Wagga.