The NSW government has committed 11.7 million to kick-start work on a new defence, aviation and technology commercial precinct at Williamtown, in a funding splash to be formally announced today.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro told a Committee for Economic Development of Australia dinner at Fort Scratchley last night the government would contribute money to begin stage one of Astra Aerolab – a major technology and innovation development slated for land next to Newcastle Airport.
The airport’s board, management and owners – Port Stephens and Newcastle councils – have been planning the development, which Mr Barilaro said would house maintenance and support services for fighter jets.
Aside from defence, technology and aviation businesses, the precinct could also be home to firms specialising in advanced manufacturing, mining and education.
Read more: Newcastle Airport has option for land
The Aerolab is expected to ultimately generate more than 5500 jobs in the Hunter and inject $246 million into the state’s economy.
The funding announced today will be used to build an access road from Williamtown Drive to the location of the development’s first stage, near the BAE Systems Australia facility.
It will also pay for installation of water, sewer, gas, electrical and broadband infrastructure.
Mr Barilaro said the precinct would “capitalise on the existing economic strengths of the region”.
“Over its lifetime, this new precinct will create thousands of direct and indirect jobs including roles for aviation IT and avionic specialists, mechanics and engineers in the Hunter,” he said.
“Australia’s combat aircraft, like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and Hawk 127, require significant long-term maintenance and upkeep and the new precinct will create an opening for businesses to address that demand.”
Newcastle Airport will kick-in $7.86 million towards the new road and to prepare the site for development, which will involve vegetation removal and bulk earthworks.
Tenders for pre-construction contracts are expected to be issued in the coming weeks, with site clearing and road construction to start early next year.
“As a community-owned asset, we take our role in generating economic and social outcomes seriously,” airport CEO Dr Peter Cock said.
“We want to create a precinct that fuels pride as well as growth – a place where people and businesses want to work.”
Fairfax Media reported last November that the airport had “taken an option” of the 76 hectare parcel of land at Williamtown to develop a business park.
The land is inside the PFAS contamination area – or red zone – but Dr Cock said at the time the site was safe to develop for business purposes.