Bairnsdale Airport is set to benefit from a million-dollar improvement to its Air Ambulance service.

The federal government announced on Friday, (January 20) that the facility would receive $1,546,379 as part of the Regional Airports Program.

The funding will go towards the construction of an ambulance patient transfer facility, plus a dedicated taxiway and apron for Medevac aircraft.

Figures from across the political spectrum have warmly received the announcement, including East Gippsland Shire Council Mayor, Mark Reeves.

“East Gippsland Shire Council is pleased to receive funding to construct an ambulance patient transfer facility at Bairnsdale Airport,” Cr Reeves said.

“It is very important to council, and East Gippsland residents, that emergency services have appropriate facilities to enable them to support our community.

“The patient transfer facility for Air Ambulance Victoria is part of the airport’s masterplan, and will significantly improve the patient experience at Bairnsdale Airport.

“It will provide patient privacy; protection from the weather; and a place to care for the patient while waiting for the aircraft, particularly when patients condition requires urgent evacuation or deterioration prior to aircraft arrival.”

State Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, called the announcement “a fantastic result” for the region.

“My office was more than happy to support the East Gippsland Shire’s application for this funding, and that was on the basis that our airport here at Bairnsdale has the highest number of fixed-wing aeromedical retrievals in regional Victoria,” Mr Bull said.

“When this work is done, this facility will ensure that those patients can be treated in… a more private and an undercover area while waiting for their medical transfer from road ambulance to fixed wing.

“So it’s a significant upgrade, and an important one.

“This sort of facility does go a long way to improving health outcomes for those who need it when emergency situations arise.”

The latest round of funding comes after the airport received $9.9 million as part of the Bushfire Recovery Grants Program, also provided by the federal government.

“If you add this (latest) funding onto the other, it will see an across-the-board upgrade to the airport, obviously not only for medical patients, but to the airport more generally,” Mr Bull said.

“Hopefully after these significant upgrades, we’ll be able to land larger aircraft, and it also opens up in the future for the possibility of having a commercial air service operating in and out of Bairnsdale.”

Established in 2019 by the previous Coalition government, the Regional Airports Program is a competitive grants program that provides federal funding for safety and infrastructure upgrades at aviation facilities across the country.

Bairnsdale Airport is one of 44 airports and aerodromes across regional Australia to benefit from the latest round of funding, which totals $27.9 million.

Other Victorian airports to have received funding in the latest round include those at Echuca, Mildura, Nhill, Bacchus Marsh, Edenhope, Maryborough and Bendigo.

Federal Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, Catherine King, said that investing in regional airports is critical to supporting the operational requirements of aeromedical and other emergency services.

“The Regional Airports Program delivers significant benefits for regional aviation and communities, including increasing safety for aircraft, operators and passengers,” Ms King said in a statement.

“These projects are also an investment in the improved delivery of goods and services, including healthcare and passenger air services.”

Australian Airports Association chief executive, James Goodwin, has welcomed the latest round of funding from the government.

“This is good news for regional airports and will go a long way to assist them to upgrade much needed airfield infrastructure,” Mr Goodwin said.

But, he added that more needs to be done to help secure the future sustainability of Australia’s regional airport network.

“We look forward to working with the government to develop new programs to ensure regional and remote communities can continue to have access to essential services and be able to stay connected to family and friends through a safe and secure aviation network,” Mr Goodwin said.

Mr Bull indicated his desire for similar programs to be initiated in the future.

“They obviously make a big difference – programs like this, that service areas of rural and regional Victoria that are often neglected, are very, very important,” Mr Bull said.

“To get an outcome like this is obviously very pleasing, but it’s very important that we continue to have funding programs that are specific to areas of rural and regional Victoria, and this Regional Airport Program is one of those.

“We need to make sure that they continue because our regions are critically important to our whole nation’s economy, and we need to look after rural and regional communities equally as well as we look after our city folk.”


UPDATE: Federal Member for Gippsland, Darren Chester has also welcomed the announcement, saying that upgrades to the Bairnsdale Airport remain a “high priority”.

“The Bairnsdale Airport is operated by East Gippsland Shire and I will continue to work with the Council to source funding for significant upgrades to meet our region’s aviation needs,” Mr Chester said.

“‘During times of crisis, like the Black Summer bushfires, the airport was critical for movement of personnel and essential supplies.

“This latest $1.5 million will assist the ongoing redevelopment to upgrade facilities for locals and visitors to our region and provide better services in medical emergencies.”

Federal Member for Gippsland, Darren Chester at Bairnsdale Airport.
Photo: Contributed