The recent announcement that Virgin Australia will fly directly between Williamtown and New Zealand is cause for celebration.
As regular readers of this column may be aware, I served as deputy chair of the Select Committee on Regional Development and Decentralisation.
I’ve written here before about our committee’s findings and their significance for regional and rural Australians in all parts of our nation.
Newcastle Airport’s decision to develop an international terminal was a bold example of ‘build it and they will come’.
It was visionary investment of the type our regions need to become the thriving, liveable places that will appeal to our city-centric populous.
In November 2017 Newcastle Airport unveiled its $1.6 million international arrivals and departure facilities. It took less than a year for an international route announcement to be made.
As the Federal Member for Paterson I applaud the board of Newcastle Airport and CEO Dr Peter Cock for bringing this international gateway to our doorstep.
As deputy chair of the RDD Select Committee I applaud the airport and all levels of Government for creating the conditions for this piece of vital infrastructure to succeed.
The RDD report, Regions at the Ready: Investing in Australia’s Future, makes the point that, right across Australia, we hear how vital it is that we make our regional cities, towns and communities more connected.
An international airport certainly speaks to this priority.
Another essential element in helping our regions grow and prosper comes via infrastructure investment.
Attracting funding from the private sector and various levels of Government to plan, initiate and see through projects that will ultimately attract more people and further investment.
This is an example of catalytic investment.
Airports are portals to global connectivity. They link products with markets. They link workers with jobs.
They are a launch pad to endless worldwide adventures, and the welcome mat for a domestic tourist market.
Here in our electorate of Paterson we have so much to share with visitors, both Australian and overseas. As I am fond of saying, from wine to whales, we’ve got it here.
To the east we have the blue water tourist paradise of Port Stephens. We also have a fishing and oyster farming industry that could well benefit from an opportunity at express, international connectivity. How do you think some of our seafood would go down in Asian markets?
In the centre of our electorate, we have Williamtown – a thriving RAAF facility and burgeoning international aviation and technology hub which already boasts some of the biggest names in the business.
To the west we have the glorious Hunter Valley and internationally renowned, top-calibre vineyards, wineries and eateries.
There are plans afoot for us to capitalise further on our domestic market by playing further to our strengths – wine and golf weekends away, for example – but in reality the possibilities are endless.
It will be thrilling to watch Paterson take off with Virgin Australia as the international flights gain traction.
The sky truly is the limit.