The first sod of soil at Astra Aerolab’s site at Newcastle Airport has been turned, while a major defence contractor has also signed on to lease land on the precinct.
NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro was on hand to turn the first sod of soil, marking the ceremonial commencement of early works for the Airport's world-class defence and aerospace precinct that will deliver 5,500 jobs to the Hunter.
“The infrastructure we have funded will allow aviation companies to quickly establish themselves within the precinct and get on with the job of supporting Royal Australian Air Force combat aircraft, including the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter,” he said.
“By funding the Astra Aerolab precinct, we are helping to create jobs for aerospace engineers, aviation, IT and avionics specialists and attracting workers to the Hunter region.
“I want to thank Newcastle Airport, the City of Newcastle and Port Stephens Council for their hard work and commitment to making this precinct a reality.”
The ceremony coincides with BAE Systems Australia signing a heads of agreement with Newcastle Airport to lease land on the 76-hectare precinct.
Newcastle Airport CEO Dr Peter Cock said the new agreement signified an exciting milestone for Astra Aerolab.
“BAE Systems Australia is the nation’s largest defence and security company, so the importance of this signing cannot be overestimated,” Dr Cock said.
“BAE’s presence will not only attract further jobs and investment, but help ensure we develop the world-class defence and aerospace precinct that our region deserves.
“RAAF base Williamtown will eventually be home to 56 of the 72 F-35A Joint Strike Fighter fleet, so Astra will hold an extremely important place in developing and maintaining our nation’s strategic defence capabilities."
BAE Systems Australia managing director of defence delivery Andrew Gresham said the company would employ about 400 highly skilled people to support the aircraft's sustainment, which would be maintained over the 30-plus years of the aircraft service life.
“This milestone is incredibly important for our business and will facilitate the redevelopment of our existing Williamtown site ahead of our work supporting the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in Australia," Gresham said.
The NSW Defence Advocate, Air Marshal (Ret’d) John Harvey said the NSW Government’s investment in infrastructure for the Astra Aerolab is a great example of the NSW Government working with local Councils and the regional airport authority to create the right conditions for Australian industry to support Australia’s defence capability and to become a regional hub for F-35 support. The Astra Aerolab will lead to a rewarding, technologically-focused career path in the defence sector for current and future generations in the Hunter region.