Flying day-old chicks out of Bendigo Airport is one of a number of revenue streams being explored by the City of Greater Bendigo as it looks to reduce the financial impost of the city’s airport.
And while council has yet to formalise a commercial carrier for airport, Bendigo Airport Advisory Committee Chair, councillor James Williams, said it would be a “fair expectation” to have regional operators flying out of the city by the end of 2018.
“We have to demonstrate that there are long-term benefits for them (carriers). It's not a cheap operation to set up in a regional airport,” Cr Williams said.
Anecdotally, the City of Greater Bendigo has financially supported the airport to the tune of $200,000, or the historical equivalent, per year since the 1980s.
Emergency services regularly use the airport but, according to the Bendigo Airport Strategic Plan: “Bendigo Airport does not currently generate adequate income to match its operating expenditure.”
Cr Williams said while the city was happy to provide some dollars to the project, “we don’t want it to be a financial burden going into the future”.
“What we don't want to see is having invested $15 million dollars is the airport just sitting there,” he said.
The City of Greater Bendigo will officially open the project this week, which included a new 1600-metre runway and the capacity to host four large commercial planes on the tarmac at one time.
Federal, state and local government money has supported the project.
As it works on locking in a commercial carrier, the city will approach larger businesses – like earth moving companies, engineering groups and livestock exporters – to use the airport.
In addition to flying out day-old chicks, exporting chicken eggs to be used for emergency flu vaccines overseas was another realistic option, Cr Williams said.
The strategic plan aims to move Bendigo from a tier six airport, to a tier two – non capital city international gateway airports like Coolangatta – or tier three – major regional airports with direct interstate services like Alice Springs – as classified by the National Aviation Infrastructure Network.
That process could take “a couple of years”, according to Cr Williams, who said it wouldn’t be without its challenges.
“It’s a fallacy that Bendigo Airport would be competing with Tullamarine. That airspace is becoming increasingly crowded,” he said.