Chapter 6

The role of airports in GA viability

Airports play a vital role in the economies and social structures of regional and remote areas, while providing the necessary infrastructure to service general aviation (GA) activities and local communities. These airports support the movement of passengers, business activities, tourism and trade. Airports generate revenue through both aeronautical and non-aeronautical activities. Non-aeronautical revenue streams include parking, retail outlets, hotels, hangar and foreign terminal rentals, corporate business parks and factory outlets.1
Specifically, regional and remote airports play a vital role in connecting people, supporting economic activities and critical services for remote communities. Regional and remote airports support key industries, such as mining and the Flyin Fly-out (FIFO) workforce,2 as well as GA activities.
This chapter explores the impact of the airport privatisation and divestment process on regional and rural airport operators, as well as emerging management and ownership issues for the airport sector and their impact on GA.

The privatisation and divestment of airports

Australia’s airport sector is varied, and classified into five categories: major; major regional; regional; remote; and federally leased secondary/metro airports. Seventy-five per cent of Australia’s airports are in regional and remote areas.3 Throughout Australia, there are four major types of airport and aerodrome ownership:
‘privatised airports’ or leased federal airports on Commonwealth land;
state, and more predominately, local government owned regional airports;
Defence-owned airports; and
privately-owned airports and airstrips.4
This diverse mix of ownership structures is a result of the Australian Government’s privatisation and divestment agenda of the 1990s, which resulted in all major airports once owned and operated by the Commonwealth being leased to private companies under long-term leases.5 Commonwealth ownership of regional and remote airports were largely transferred to state and local governments.6 Both these matters are discussed in this chapter.

Registration and regulation of regional and remote airports

The certification and registration process of aerodromes7 is managed by CASA under Part 139 of the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations (CASR). While certain aerodromes must be certified (generally those with terminal instrument flight procedures), others can opt to be certified.8
There are two classifications of aerodrome:
a CASA certified aerodrome, which is used by regular public transport (RPT) or charter aircraft with more than 30 passenger seats; and
a CASA registered aerodrome, which has been verified9 as a facility that is used at least once a week by RPT or charter aircraft, with more than nine but no more than 30 passenger seats.10
Choosing to become a registered aerodrome allows the aerodromes to operate within CASA’s regulatory system and received associated benefits, such as regulatory surveillance.11
An aerodrome with a CASA classification must have the following infrastructure:
runway construction, lengthening, widening or upgrading work;
taxiway and apron works;
terminal facilities;
navigational aids/instrument landing systems;
Air Traffic Control tower/data and communication links;
rescue and firefighting services and equipment; and
surveillance and security infrastructure (including perimeter fencing, screening facilities, secure areas, and biohazard testing).12
Simple airstrips without CASA classification do not have the same infrastructure requirements. However, basic safety standards and ongoing maintenance is required, such as fencing, lighting and runway grading.13

The divestment of regional airports

In contrast to airports in urban areas, it has been found that regional and remote airports generally face lower levels of regulation, ‘as they are less likely to have any market power or have adverse impacts on surrounding residents or businesses’.14
However, this is also a result of the divestment of regional and remote airports from the Aerodrome Local Ownership Plan (ALOP). Regional and remote airports, once owned and operated by the Australian Government, were divested under the ALOP between 1958 and 1993.15
This divestment resulted in most regional airports being owned, funded and operated by local councils or state governments. However, some councils have opted to sell their airports to private operators.16
The transfer of airport assets under the ALOP ‘imposed obligations on the councils to continue to operate and maintain the assets as an airport’. Further, the ALOP required local councils to ‘maintain [airport] standards to ensure Civil Aviation Authority17…certification or registration’ was maintained.18
The Commonwealth’s divestment of regional and remote airports was considered a major policy mistake by the General Aviation Advisory Network (GAAN), primarily because local governments lacked the ‘financial capacity to cover the recurrent costs of maintaining airports, and the ability to grow and promote aviation industries at the airports’. GAAN emphasised that smaller regional airports needed to be recognised as critical national infrastructure, as a necessary first step before any meaningful reform to the sector could be achieved.19

Financial viability of regional airports

The costs associated with the operation and maintenance of regional and remote airports and aerodromes was a key concern raised with the committee and has been a longstanding issue for the GA sector. The impacts of privatisation and government divestment, and the shift of the cost imposts of aerodrome maintenance to local councils, continues to directly and negatively impact on the ongoing financial viability of regional airports.
In 2016, the Australian Airports Association (AAA) commissioned ACIL Allen Consulting to conduct a Regional Airport Infrastructure Study. This study found that:
61 per cent of regional airports had budget deficits in 2014-15 with expenditure forecasts expected to rise by 38 per cent over the following decade (2024–25);20
almost 40 per cent of regional airports were expected to experience persistent budget deficits in the next decade;
with some 400 regional airports across Australia, this deficit suggested approximately 160 airports were ‘likely to experience a persistent budget deficit in the next decade’;
the average funding gap experienced by those 160 airports was anticipated to be approximately $109 000 per year, with a combined funding gap of approximately $17 million per year; and
over the decade from 2016, regional airports were estimated to experience a ‘$170 million shortfall in essential infrastructure and maintenance funding’.21
Another report commissioned by the AAA in 2017, carried out by Deloitte Access Economics and titled ‘Connecting Australia’, found a clear pattern between increased profitability and airport size. Major airports reported a profit level of approximately $700 million, whereas major regional airports and regional airports were found to break even or operate at a loss.22
Of the key challenges identified by Australia’s airports as part of the Connecting Australia report, the most common concern raised was costs associated with complying with security arrangements, followed by the costs of regulatory compliance. Concerns about staffing and capital expenditure were exclusively raised by regional airports. Other concerns included: low consumer demand and increased competition; airline negotiations; and land use (primarily zoning and development of land surrounding airports).23

Views of stakeholders

Evidence to the inquiry drew attention to the financial burden of maintaining and operating regional and remote airports, and the cost primarily borne by local governments.
For example, the Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) submitted that fees generated from passenger, screening and landing fees ‘do not typically cover the ordinary operating costs for a regional [airport] hub’. Specific concerns were raised regarding security screening and procedural requirements that require ‘ongoing and continual monitoring and staffing’. The LGAQ noted that whilst some of these costs can be passed onto airlines and passengers, this approach could become unsustainable, resulting in regional airlines reviewing their operations. The LGAQ posited that ultimately, it is local councils that ‘bear all of the costs and risk in maintaining regional aerodromes’ and warned that ‘regional councils cannot continually absorb the costs of legislative change’.24
The committee also heard the lack of investment into regional aerodromes has had an accumulative impact on GA infrastructure at these facilities. Mr William Shrapnel from HeliMods considered the current GA infrastructure at airports to be ‘greatly overlooked’. He advised the committee that this infrastructure has ‘been left alone for a long time now’ and over that time, he had ‘noticed a significant decline in aerodromes’. Mr Shrapnel detailed the impact on investment of aerodromes being handed to shires and councils:
The circumstance we have now is there has been an underinvestment in regional aerodromes. Historical investment used to be led federally. It's no longer a priority. Aerodromes have generally been handed back to the shires and councils. I guess they have the best of intentions but they don't really understand how to use that asset. They don't have a national view naturally. They're going to have a regional view.25
The LGAQ recommended the following measures to assist local governments with the management of costs associated with airport operations:
a ‘cost/benefit analysis and a detailed costing of capital and ongoing staffing costs’ to be conducted for any regulatory changes enforced by CASA, with ‘federal support for ongoing operational costs, and a plan as to how regional aerodromes can be supported through reasonable expectation of income’; and
the Australian Government to include GA representatives in any planned review of aviation and maritime transport and security regulatory settings.26
LGAQ further recommended the establishment of a regional airport infrastructure fund. Such a fund could offer ongoing support for regional airports and airstrips to meet CASA regulations, noting ‘the continued need for this infrastructure for government services, health and safety and policing’.27

Regulatory compliance costs

As previously noted, a major concern identified by the AAA’s Connecting Australia report was the operational costs generated by regulatory compliance.28 An additional cost faced by regional airports was the need to hire qualified experts to conduct airport assessments. These assessments are necessary for an airport to maintain a CASA certification under Part 139 of the CASR. 29
LGAQ raised concern with the cost of meeting the requirements for aerodromes to be “CASA certified” or “CASA registered”. For this to occur, an airport is required to continually upgrade, maintain and renew its aviation assets. For regional communities, the costs associated with meeting these requirements were ‘significantly more expensive, as specialised planners, designers and workers need to be brought in from urban centres or regional hubs, as well as materials and equipment needed for construction or maintenance’.30
The LGAQ submitted that the individuals with the necessary skills to conduct assessments required by CASA were not readily available in regional and remote areas and locating qualified experts can be costly and time consuming. It was thus ‘markedly more expensive to engage a consultant that needs to travel into regional and remote Queensland to carry out certification on a regular basis’. Further costs were incurred through specialist training requirements for operational staff, with those with skills more unlikely to be based in regional areas. To support regional airports with these costs, the LGAQ recommended that ‘CASA facilitates a register of available experts for managers of regional aerodromes to access, in order to locate available skills for ongoing registration and accreditation’.31

Government support

Regional airports and local councils often struggle to finance ongoing maintenance airports. This results in airports seeking financial assistance through Commonwealth, state and territory governments, for example through operating grant schemes to finance upgrade works.32
The Australian Government provides financial assistance to regional airports through a range of programs. The Building Better Regions Fund provided $50 million to regional airports over 3 rounds of funding and $28.3 million for the Remote Airstrip Upgrade (RAU) Program.33
The 2019–20 Budget provided $100 million over four years to establish a new Regional Airports Program to assist regional airports undertake access and safety work.34
The Australian Government plans to run a third round of the Regional Airports Program in 2022 to support:
improvement to critical aviation infrastructure in Australia’s regions; and
capital investments, with funding to be allocated to eligible regional airports and aerodrome operators to invest in aviation safety and access infrastructure.35
The Australian Government will also provide an additional $15 million to improve the safety and accessibility of airstrips in remote communities through a ninth round of the RAU Program. The Remote Air Services Subsidy (RASS) scheme has been issued a further $6.6 million on top of the $55 million already allocated over four years starting in 2021–22, which currently facilitates weekly flights to 269 remote communities, including 86 Indigenous communities where flights are not commercially viable.36
Whilst recognising the Australian Government’s support of regional and remote airports, GAAN argued these support measures were ‘ad-hoc and not tied to a central plan or industry strategy’. It called for the Commonwealth to provide recurrent funding to sustain regional airport assets, which could be matched by private investment through subsidised long-term leases.37

Impact of privatisation and master plans on GA

Major airports and master plans

Major urban airports are regulated under the Airports Act 1996 (Airports Act). The Airports Act sets out the regulatory arrangements for airports previously owned and operated by the Federal Airports Corporation (FAC).38 All major assets and liabilities of the FAC were transferred to airportlessee companies, and by 1998 the FAC held no substantial assets. Airports privately leased under the Airports Act include:
Canberra, Sydney, Bankstown, Camden, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Townsville, Archerfield, Mounts Isa, Darwin, Alice Springs, Tennant Creek, Melbourne, Essendon, Moorabbin, Hobart, Launceston, Adelaide, Parafield, Perth and Jendakot.39
Under the Airports Act, an airport-lessee company (the company) of a major airport has a statutory obligation to use the airport site as an airport.40
Further, the company is required to submit to the Minister for approval, a preliminary draft master plan every five years.41 These draft master plans are a ’20-year strategic vision for an airport site’ that must include details about ‘future land use, types of permitted development, and noise and environmental impacts’.42
In addition, this draft master plan must demonstrate that the company has had due regard to public comments received in preparation of the draft plan, through the establishment of Community Aviation Consultation Groups.43 If the draft master plan be approved by the Minister, it becomes the final master plan.44
In essence, master plans provide a ‘blueprint for the future coordinated development’ of an airport, while establishing the ‘strategic vision for the economic and efficient use of the airport over the planning period’.45 This can include non-aviation activity, such as retail and commercial business precincts.

Modernising regulations —Aviation Recovery Framework

In December 2021, the Australian Government announced its intention to modernise the regulations under the Airports Act, which are due to sunset on 1 April 2024.46 This modernisation process is part of the Australian Government’s Aviation Recovery Framework (the framework) to enhance regulation of major airports, through a collaborative approach between government, industry and the community. With regard to the assessment of draft master plans and ongoing monitoring of on-airport building activities, the Australian Government announced that it will:
… place a stronger focus on ensuring proposed developments to support airport operations, including works to encourage General Aviation participation, are delivered within indicated timeframes and not deprioritised in favour of non-aviation development.47

Conduct at secondary airports

The expansion of major airport developments into nonaviation areas, when combined with the privatisation and divestment of airports from government control, has had a direct impact on GA’s ongoing viability.
A 2017 statistical report by the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) detailed the impact privatisation has had on the GA sector, operating a capital city secondary airports.
The report noted that many GA operators had long-term leases at the time of privatisation; however, as those leases expired, GA tenants began to see ‘large increases in rents, including new rent on hangars and infrastructure that [GA operators had] built and paid for, but relinquished at the expiry of their lease’. The statistical report also found a reluctance among some airport operators to issue ‘GA aircraft operators with long term leases due to future airport development plans, including the creation of GA precincts’. This reluctance reportedly ‘made it difficult for some GA operators to justify investment in construction work to meet their business’ needs’.48
These issues were considered by GAAN, which made observations in line with BITRE’s report. GAAN concluded that since privatisation, the GA sector has been ‘negatively affected at the capital city secondary airports’. It found some airport owners had sought to ‘discourage aviation usage at the airports…to favour non-aviation development and other markets, which may be more lucrative’.49
Compounding this issue, in GAAN’s view, was small to medium enterprises not having the resources needed to ‘negotiate long-term leases that large non-aviation companies, have been able to achieve’. The absence of long-term leases resulted in a lack of investment in infrastructure to support GA activities. GAAN warned that the ‘economic ramifications of this situation mean fewer jobs, and lack of investment in fleet renewal, upskilling and capabilitybuilding’.50
To address this issue, GAAN called for the Australian Government to support an Australian Competition and Consumer Commissionled investigation into the conduct of large secondary airports. It also called for the Australian Government to ‘revise its policy towards the approval of leased secondary airport master plans to ensure[…]the interests of the GA sector are adequately protected’.51

Concerns of stakeholders

GAAN’s findings align with the evidence presented to this inquiry. For example, the committee heard concerns about the impact of airport privatisation on the GA sector’s activities at some major airports. Central to those concerns was non-aviation infrastructure supplanting GA operations in airport facilities. Further, various stakeholders criticised the draft master plan process. These concerns are further explored below, with specific focus on the operation of the Moorabbin Airport.
The City of Kingston submitted that when the FAC privatised airports in 1996, it was ‘not the intent of the Federal Government to legitimise business plans gearing to maximise shareholder returns at the expense of the aviation industry’. The City of Kingston pointed out that the intended purpose was to bolster the aviation industry, which it argued has not occurred.52
A similar concern was raised by Mr Clinton McKenzie, who argued that the granting of long-term leases of airports ‘to private interests have not been in the interest of general aviation’. Mr McKenzie was critical of what has transpired since the privatisation of Commonwealth-owned aerodromes, arguing that aerodromes were not intended to become ‘housing estates or warehouse complexes’.53
Mr Peter Cromarty’s submission detailed the changes that have taken place at airports since privatisation. He argued a contributing factor in the prioritisation of non-aeronautical activities, such as retail spaces, is a result of airport owners wanting to make a return on their investment. Whereas GA activities ‘take time, effort and money to accommodate and bring in little revenue compared to other income streams’.54
The Aviation Maintenance Repair and Overhaul Business Association (AMROBA) contended that ‘some airports develop extraordinary Master Plans and then expect non-commercial airport tenants to pay for it by increasing tenancy rates’.55 According to AMROBA, these increase costs have ‘crippled general aviation’.56
To address these issues, AMROBA recommended that the Airports Act be reviewed and amended. Specifically, for the Airports Act to clarify the use of airports ‘be restricted to being used as an airport, not providing loopholes’ for ‘shopping centres and other non-aviation uses’. AMROBA proceeded to explain the impact of privatisation on GA:
… the privatisation of secondary airports has resulted in GA operators being exposed to commercial reality, not experienced under the previous system of government ownership, reflecting the fact that former FAC rents were effectively being subsidised by the government. This exposed vulnerabilities in the business models of many GA businesses that had not been evident previously.57
A similar recommendation was made by the City of Kingston, with Cr Steve Staikos—on behalf of the Council—calling for a review of the management of federally leased airports:
We believe such a review is required to critically examine the rapid depletion of aviation activity on federally leased airports and to consider the amount of non-aviation development occurring, as well as planned for, on federally leased airport land. Such an exercise must be sufficiently strategic to consider aviation needs in the medium to long term. In Victoria, this strategic oversight has been occurring for seaports and road and rail infrastructure, with a significant investment pipeline for new projects, but such thinking is lacking for aviation.58

Airport case study—Moorabbin Airport

Throughout the inquiry, the GA stakeholders expressed concern about the operations of various airports. As demonstrated above, some of these concerns related to the impact of privatisation of airports, with commercial businesses encroaching on airport land and runways,59 fuelled by the prioritisation and development of non-aviation enterprises.60
One airport considered at length during the inquiry was Moorabbin Airport, a 294-hectare site, located 21 kilometres southeast of Melbourne’s central business district. Moorabbin is the second busiest airport in Australia, averaging 295 000 movements per year.61 As a major urban airport, it is subject to the requirements of the Airports Act.62
Moorabbin Airport is one of Australia’s leading GA airports, home to several flying training schools for both fixed and rotary wing operations. Training accounts for two thirds of all out movements recorded at the airport. The airport also supports recreational flying and GA maintenance organisations that service local and visiting aircraft.63
The Moorabbin Airport sits within the City of Kingston precinct, and for this reason the City has significant interest in the effectiveness of the airport’s operation.
The Mayor of the City of Kingston, Cr Steve Staikos, expressed concern about the deregulation of Moorabbin Airport. He argued this deregulation has resulted in the airport developing a significant non-aviation commercial centre, potentially limiting future aviation expansion. He suggested that these non-aviation commercial operations could be inconsistent with requirements under the Airport Act (and the relevant National Airports Safeguarding Framework64 guidelines).65
The committee was provided with several examples of this nonaviation focus. For example, SAR Aviation Medicine submitted that it had trouble leasing an appropriate space at Moorabbin Airport in which to conduct medical examinations, a necessary service for pilots and air traffic controllers.66 SAR was critical of the airport’s master plans, arguing that Moorabbin Airport Corporation (MAC) has made minimal investment in aviation, with ‘no serious effort to assist, promote or develop general aviation’ at the airport.67
The Australian Flight Training Industry Association expressed concern about the lack of infrastructure for aviation training at Moorabbin Airport. It argued that the ‘aviation precinct on crown land is being squeezed out by nonaviation commercial development’. Its representative, Ms Maddy Johnson, pointed out that GA airports—such as Moorabbin Airport—play a vital role in the aviation sector’s ecosystem, through training schools. Ms Johnson emphasised that these training schools must be located near major urban centres because ‘students who want to learn to fly need access to jobs to pay for the ever-increasing [training] costs’.68
A clear example of commercial activities being prioritised over aviation businesses was provided by the Moorabbin Airport Chamber of Commerce Incorporated (MACCI). It submitted that five aviation businesses at Moorabbin Airport had been given six months’ notice of eviction during Victoria’s COVID-19 lockdown of 2020, with MAC planning to build three commercial warehouses at the airport. According to the MACCI, the construction of the commercial warehouse was approved under the airport’s 2015 master plan, which had been signed off by the Minister.69
To prevent situations such as these from occurring again, MACCI proposed that when considering draft master plans, the Minister must have regard to:
[…] the extent to which carrying out the plan would meet present and future requirements of civil aviation users of the airport, and other uses of the airport, for services and facilities relating to the airport concerned.70
Cr Staikos pointed out that the lease agreement between the Commonwealth and MAC states that Moorabbin Airport is permitted to use the airport for other lawful purposes but must not be ‘inconsistent with its use as an airport’, and called for a more focused investigation into the management of federally leased airports to consider aviation needs in the medium to long term.71

Department’s response

The committee asked the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications (the Department) about its review of the Moorabbin Airport’s current draft master plan. In response, the Department stated that an extension of time had been granted to ensure ‘there is sufficient time to engage with…stakeholders’. Further, the master-plan proposal, which was due in February 2022 would ‘have to outline all of the discussions or the proposals that they’ve received and what they’ve done to address those’. The Department would then use that information for its analysis to determine recommendations or to provide the plan to the Minister for final approval.72
More broadly, the Department of Infrastructure sought to reassure the committee that it works with airports to ensure all regulatory requirements are met under the Airports Act, including development activities. The Department’s First Assistant Secretary, Ms Janet Quigley, emphasised the importance of ensuring airports operate as an airport, which includes GA operations:
Our covering lease with all of the federal airports requires them to maintain the airport as a functioning airport. That's our first point of clarity in terms of their ability and their focus in terms of operating the airport as an airport. The master-plan process, as we say, outlines all of the arrangements that they need to follow, which we then use to inform that decision-making process.73
When asked how the Department defines whether an airport primarily functions as an airport, Ms Quigley responded that ‘each airport is different and its operational base will be different’, therefore making it ‘impossible for [the Department] to have a single definition’. The Department therefore ‘works with each of the airports on an individual basis around their plan and what they’re intending to do’. The Department made clear that consultation with the GA sector forms part of this process, with GA operations playing a critical part in the determination of airport operations under master plans. Ms Quigley proceeded to detail key aspects of this consultation process:
… we take into account the stakeholders who are on as tenants and other interested parties through the consultation process. We have a look at what their issues are, and we make sure that the airports are addressing their concerns through that development process. Outlining or defining how the airport functions as an airport is on a case-by-case basis, depending on what its individual arrangements are.74
When considering master plans, Ms Quigley also clarified that the Department consults with CASA on ‘safety aspects, dealing with air services and the operationalisation of [master] plans’.75
Concerning the non-aeronautical business sector of an airport, Ms Quigley stated that the department appreciated its role in the ‘sustainability of an airport’. However, the non-aeronautical sector needs to be ‘balanced up with their intent to operate as an airport and to ensure that they have got that diversity of aviation business on their airport land’.76

Committee views and recommendations

Regional and remote airports

For rural and regional communities, airports are vital infrastructure that connect local communities to the wider Australian community and economy. Further, regional and remote aerodrome infrastructure provides the necessary foundations and ongoing support for GA, which in turn contributes to the broader aviation ecosystem.
There are clear issues around the ongoing financial viability and adequacy of airport infrastructure in rural and regional communities, with significant financial pressure being placed on local councils. It is alarming that most airports outside of major urban centres often operate at loss or, at best, break even. The lack of financial viability of these airports impacts on airport infrastructure, which in turn impacts on aviation operations, including GA.
The Department must work with local governments to determine how best to support and ensure the ongoing operations of airports in rural and regional communities.

Financial support

Regional airports and local councils often struggle to finance ongoing maintenance—and the associated personnel—at aerodromes. This results in airports seeking financial assistance through various Commonwealth, state and territory government grant schemes.
It is imperative that the Australian Government continue to provide local governments with access to financial support that ensures airports in rural and regional communities remain operational, and that airport infrastructure meets CASA and air safety requirements. As proposed by the LGAQ, potential pathways forward include the establishment of a regional airport infrastructure fund and measures to support access to qualified experts to conduct airport assessments.
The Australian Government’s Building Better Regions Fund, the Regional Airports Program, and the RAU Program provide essential financial support. However, these programs are often only available for limited periods, or initial periods which are repeatedly extended—the RAU Program, for example, is up to its ninth round of funding. This provides no certainty to aerodrome operators that future infrastructure and maintenance needs can be financed—directly placing the ongoing viability of GA at risk.
As GAAN pointed out, these measures are ‘ad hoc’, and not tied to long-term, industry-wide strategies. The committee is persuaded by the arguments from GAAN, the LGAQ and other submitters that recurrent funding is needed to sustain regional airport infrastructure, in the form of a regional aerodrome infrastructure fund. Such a fund could seek to consolidate the many and varied grants programs currently in place. The committee recommends that the fund be established as a matter of priority, including guidelines for access to the fund and a commitment to longterm, ongoing funding once established.

Recommendation 11

The committee recommends that the Australian Government, through the Department of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, establish a legislative framework and associated guidelines for a Regional Aerodrome Infrastructure Fund. The Fund should be accessible to operators of regional and remote aerodromes, and should be provided with ongoing and longterm funding.

Major urban airports

Australia’s major and secondary airports serve a multitude of interests, ranging from commercial and GA activities, flight training schools and non-aeronautical activities. As demonstrated in this chapter, the way in which each airport prioritises and manages these functions varies, depending on the unique characteristics of individual airport operations.
To remain profitable, these airports have sought to diversify their income streams, in some cases supporting the development of non-aeronautical facilities. It is apparent to the committee that in some cases, the development of non-aeronautical facilities has been prioritised over the requirements of the GA sector. Whilst consideration of the GA sector’s needs is required under the existing regulatory framework, GA representatives have strongly argued that such consideration is inadequate.
Based on the evidence received, the circumstances at Moorabbin Airport appear to the committee to be a clear example of non​‑aviation commercial endeavours taking precedence over aviation activity at airports, to the ongoing and longterm detriment of GA viability.
The committee considers it timely that the Australian Government has announced its intention to modernises the regulations that govern airport operations under the Airports Act as part of the Aviation Recovery Framework. The committee is particularly pleased the framework has specified that it will place stronger focus on ensuring proposed developments at airports support aviation activities, including the GA sector. Most importantly, the framework seeks to ensure aviation activities are ‘not de-prioritised in favour of nonaviation development’. It is imperative that Australia’s airports remain focused on servicing Australia’s aviation sector.
The committee will continue to follow the Australian Government’s modernisation process with interest and seek ongoing updates from the Department. The committee is of the view that any activities aimed at modernising regulations under the Airports Act should include regular and ongoing consultation with representatives from across the GA sector.

Recommendation 12

The committee recommends the Australian Government ensures that representatives from the general aviation sector are regularly consulted as part of the modernisation of regulations under the Airports Act 1996.
Senator Susan McDonald

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