Draft airport masterplan suggests widening runway

The plan recommends widening the runway at Warnervale airport

A Warnervale airport draft masterplan to be tabled at Central Coast Council’s December 12 meeting recommends widening the runway from 10m to 23m but keeping the length at 1,200m.

This would allow the airport to accommodate a wider array of aircraft up to an initial maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 10,000kg.

These include: the four-seat single engine Cessna 172; the eight-seat Mahindra Airvans, which is a utility aircraft designed for operations in the Australian Outback; the two or four-seater Piper PA-28 Warrior; and the twin-turbo prop Beechcraft Super King Air 200 which can seat a maximum of nine passengers.

The plan includes future provision for parallel taxiways on both sides of the runway to service existing and future aviation activities.

Passenger services are not envisaged in the foreseeable future but the plan says it would be prudent to reserve land for this purpose and includes a site on the west side of the runway.

If adopted by Administrator Rik Hart, the draft will be publicly exhibited from December 14 until February 13, 2024, for community feedback.

The strategic objective is to develop the Central Coast Airport into a regional general aviation industry hub serving the Sydney, Central Coast and Hunter regions.

The preferred scenario in the draft is based on land availability, financial feasibility, economic viability, land ownership and ecological constraints.

“The draft masterplan allows for the opportunity to expand employment activities, encourage greater tourism and has been developed in consideration of the important ecological constraints surrounding the airport lands and Warnervale Employment Zone (WEZ),” Council says.

As well as being on public exhibition for the entire community to consider the potential benefits of developing the airport, an aviation consultation process will be conducted by an independent commercial advisory specialist.

“The purpose of the market sounding will provide greater certainty to the level, type and indicative timing of interest by suitable commercial operators,” Council says.

“This will inform the potential to take up appropriately zoned land in the airport precinct to undertake aviation related activities.”

These commercial activities may include hangars, aircraft maintenance, charter operations, pilot training, aircraft sales and leasing, airport-related intermodal logistics, research and development.

Before finalising the masterplan, a detailed business plan would identify the costs and potential funding sources.

“These will likely include private sector investment for general aviation facilities as well as investment by Council and other levels of government (through grant funding) for airport infrastructure,” Council says.

The airport is on 44ha on the south-west side of Sparks Rd and west of Jack Grant Ave in Warnervale.

The surrounding land largely falls into one of two land use categories: either general industrial or environmental conservation.

“However, the majority of the surrounding land is zoned for environmental conservation and comprises substantial areas of existing trees and other vegetation,” the masterplan states.

The nearest residential area is more than one kilometre from the airport site, the masterplan says.

The new Central Coast councillors in 2017 resolved not to proceed with a masterplan, a decision that stood despite three rescission motions.

Only weeks before the councillors were suspended in 2020, the State Government rescinded the Warnervale Airport Restrictions Bill which removed some constraints on the airport.

In April 2021, the Administrator agreed to the development of a masterplan.

The development of a Warnervale conservation agreement to permanently protect the Porters Creek Wetland was suspended until the masterplan, a Plan of Management and a subdivision plan that subdivided the wetland and surrounding E2 land from the employment land were registered.

A 2022 report identified areas to set aside for conservation in perpetuity as a stewardship site.

The report to the December 12 meeting says that a more detailed analysis of these lands will be undertaken within the next three years to determine their preferred land use.

The outcome of those investigations would be reported to Council for further consideration.

Merilyn Vale