STAWELL - The potential to establish a fly-in-fly-out mining base in Stawell has received a further boost, following an announcement that Northern Grampians Shire Council will receive $565,000 in funding through the Regional Aviation Fund to carry out further improvements at the Stawell Aerodrome.
Aviation Minister, Gordon Rich-Phillips, flew into Stawell on Wednesday to announce the funding, which will complement the main runway and taxiway upgrade that was completed in September last year.
"The Coalition Government is funding this project because we believe the airport is a vital piece of infrastructure for the community of Stawell," Mr Rich-Phillips said.
"The upgrade will allow the airport to operate in inclement weather and at night by providing pilot activated access direct to the automatic weather station at the site.
"It will also provide a surveyed approach and take-off path for pilots that is designed, flight tested and published in reference manuals to improve safety.
"This will improve the community's access to air ambulance services and reduce the number of occasions where patients are taken by road to Horsham or Ballarat because of unsuitable weather conditions."
The funding will also be used to complete the construction of internal access roads and to upgrade runways and the airport's terminal.
"The first two stages of the project, which have also received Victorian Government funding, are already paying dividends for the community," Mr Rich-Phillips said.
"A number of businesses based at the airport have reported an increase in business since the completion of Stage 2 works, including Aero Restorations.
"At least eight new jobs have been created as a result of increased air traffic to and from the airport for on-going regular maintenance of aircraft frames, engines and radios."
Member for Western Victoria Simon Ramsay said the final stage would complete the first major upgrade of the airport since it was built in 1964.
"Stawell Aerodrome is a key asset for Western Victoria, providing direct access to the Grampians and surrounding nature-based tourism opportunities," Mr Ramsay said.
Northern Grampians Shire Council will contribute a further $100,000 towards the project which will enable the development of a terminal building, improved amenities, access road, and resealing of the secondary runway, and create a high standard facility suitable for all existing and expected future aircraft types.
A Non Precision Approach (NPA) landing facility will also improve safety for landing planes in adverse weather conditions.
Shire chief executive officer, Justine Linley, said the announcement would strengthen Council's newly established Golden Legacy project which is designed to plan for the end of underground mining operations at the Stawell Gold Mine.
"Redundancies at Stawell Gold Mine have just commenced, so this is a very timely announcement," she said.
"For the past few months Council has been working cooperatively with Stawell Gold Mine and key stakeholders to identify opportunities to retain redundant workers, and their families, in Stawell and the region.
"As part of the Golden Legacy project, we are also investigating the possibility of Stawell becoming a base for fly-in-fly-out mining in other areas. The potential for this type of activity has obviously been given a major boost with news that the final stage of the airport upgrade will be funded."
The Golden Legacy Project will allow Council to explore local interest in a fly-in-fly-out (FIFO) workforce from Stawell to Victorian and interstate mining regions.
Several employers in Cobar, New South Wales, have indicated a willingness to take part in a pilot FIFO program which could commence before the end of this year.
Ms Linley said there were many employment opportunities currently available in the mining industry.
"Foundation work undertaken by Stawell Gold Mine has allowed us to establishing links with mining companies in other states," she said.
"We are now working with these companies to advertise their vacant positions locally. Council is encouraging those interested to apply for these positions, and subject to sufficient interest, a Stawell FIFO service will be established."
In addition to identifying employment opportunities and the potential to establish a fly-in-fly-out base, the Golden Legacy project will investigate the feasibility of setting up a centre of excellence for mining operations training in Stawell.
It will also assist Council to plan for the long term economic and social sustainability of both the town and the community.
Workers seeking more information on the proposed FIFO service can contact Project Coordinator Amanda Western at the Northern Grampians Shire Council on 0419 129 043.