Newcastle Airport CEO says he doesn't expect PFAS to be a barrier to development of Astra Aerolab

Airside: Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald, Deputy Premier John Barilaro and Newcastle Airport CEO Peter Cock at the funding announcement on Wednesday.
Airside: Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald, Deputy Premier John Barilaro and Newcastle Airport CEO Peter Cock at the funding announcement on Wednesday.

Newcastle Airport’s CEO says he does not expect PFAS contamination to get in the way of the development of a major technology, aviation and defence industries hub at Williamtown.

Peter Cock told a group of dignitaries, including Deputy Premier John Barilaro, at the official announcement of $11.7 million worth of state government funding for the Astra Aerolab on Wednesday, PFAS contamination was “the elephant in the room”.

But Dr Cock said buying and developing land for the business park next to the airport, in the PFAS contamination zone, was a “strategic investment”.

“Newcastle Airport is familiar with developing land in the management zone – we’ve recently successfully completed a carpark and you would have all seen on your way in that buildings are being constructed in this area,” he said. 

“So we will work closely and follow all the guidelines of the NSW EPA. We don’t see the ground conditions posing any barrier to development or any barrier to economic activity.”

Airport management, its board and major shareholders – Newcastle and Port Stephens councils – plan to establish a 76 hectare precinct that will feature business tenants across the aviation, defence, technology, advanced manufacturing and education sectors.

When complete, it is expected to created more than 5500 jobs and inject $246 million into the state’s economy.

Plans for the site.

Plans for the site.

The government’s $11.7 million grant, along with a $7.86 million contribution from the airport, will be used to build an access road, prepare the ground for construction and install water, gas, sewer and broadband infrastructure.

Dr Cock said the airport would be “selective” about tenants for the site, but businesses had already been in touch about a spot.

When asked whether the government was concerned about PFAS affecting the development, Mr Barilaro said the government would not have given funding to the project “if that was of high concern”.

“We’re showing that you can still use this land, you can commercialise this land, you can uplift the values and you can attract investment,” he said. “The opportunities still are here and we should not lose sight of that.”