Sunshine Coast Airport Expansion

The Sunshine Coast Council (SCC) initially proposed to upgrade the existing facilities at the Sunshine Coast Airport through the construction of a new East-West runway, a new Terminal precinct and new aerospace business areas.  Planning for the project commenced with the development of a draft master plan in 2006 followed by a Conceptual Development Plan in 2010 as well as associated Business Cases in 2009 & 2010. View the Airport Expansion Master Plan here. 


Council’s reasons for upgrade

  • A longer & wider runway will allow for wider bodied aircraft with greater capacity (more people), and range (more destinations).
  • There will be fewer dwellings in the public safety area and noise impact area (according to EIS statement).
  • Increased passenger numbers will increase tourism spend in the region, and increase the number of jobs at the airport.
  • The airport originally operated under a CASA safety dispensation which will end in 2021, the new runway will meet all safety standards and not require renewal of the CASA dispensation.

    On 13 November 2014, due to amendments to the CASA regulations, the requirements for safe operation were transferred from the airport operators to the airline operators.

What are the environmental concerns?

The project was referred under the EPBC Act in 2011 and was found to be a controlled action because of its impacts on:

  1. Wetlands of international importance (sections 16 and 17B)
  2. Listed threatened species and communities (sections 18 and 18A)
  3. Listed migratory species (sections 20 and 20A)

Construction of the airport will require 2.7 million cubic meter of fill. The fill is proposed to be dredged in Moreton Bay. Dredging is a highly destructive process causing the complete removal of the benthic zone with significant impacts on turbidity levels in surrounding areas which are of particular concern for ecosystems that are sunlight dependent such as seagrass beds. 

Environmental concerns continued

There is a significant population of the endangered Emu Mountain She-Oak (Allocasuarina emuina) on site. Approximately 5.3 ha of core habitat for the species would be impacted by the project. The site also contains important foraging habitat for the vulnerable Grey-headed Flying Fox (Pteropus poliocephalus) - approximately 41.8 ha would be impacted by the project. The site also contains habitat that is suitable to the vulnerable Wallum Sedgefrog (Litoria olongburensis) and the vulnerable ground parrot (Pezoporus wallicus). Both species are known to occur on the site.

Click here for more details about the environmental concerns.

History of the Project

  • The project was assessed through the State led Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process with the terms of reference for the EIS being released in May 2012.
  • The EIS was released for public comment in September 2014.  It was assessed by the Co-ordinator General resulting in another document referred to as ‘Additional Information To The EIS’ (AEIS). View the EIS Summary here.  View the AEIS (main document) here
  • As part of the EIS process, a ‘Value Engineering Exercise’ significantly reduced the extent of works previously identified in the Conceptual Development Plan in 2010. 
  • The AEIS was released for public comment in November 2015.  Following an assessment by the Co-ordinator General, a report was released on 19 May 2016 approving the Project, but with conditions.



  • The COG Report was also approved by the Federal Environment Minister, with conditions.
  • The Estimated expenditure for the EIS project (‘New Runway’) is $347 M. The economic analysis results for the Net Present Value (NPV) is $243 M, resulting in a Benefit Cost Ratio (BCR) of 2.45.
  • On 9 February 2017, the Sunshine Coast Council (SCC) announced the outcome of a tender process for a commercial partner to assist funding of the proposed expansion of the Sunshine Coast airport - Palisade Investment Partners. Under the deal, the airport will continue to be owned by SCC, with Palisade operating the asset under a 99-year lease in return for total payments worth $605 million.
  • The project is now in a final design stage with construction due for completion by the end of 2020.

What are the alternatives?

A “Do Minimum” alternative 

A “Do Minimum” alternative was also proposed as part of the EIS process. This upgrade to the airport would achieve CASA compliance for runway widths.

  • The current runway would be widened to 45 meters and extended 60 meters beyond the existing strip.
  • This alternative would also increase runway safety areas at both ends.
  • The estimated expenditure for a “Do Minimum” alternative is between $70 M and $80 M, compared to the expansion project estimated expenditure at $347 M.  The AEIS released results of the economic analysis for the ‘Do Minimum’ alternative – NPV $297.6 M and BCR 9.561.

The Sunshine Coast Airport discounted this option on the grounds that it “would just maintain access to the existing limited, mainly east coast, domestic markets” while also not being “consistent with SCC objectives to support the regions’s economy.”


A "Do Nothing" alternative

‘Do Nothing’ requires no immediate construction and ongoing operation will be as is.

SCEC's stance

The results, as provided in the EIS and AEIS documents, indicated that ‘Do Minimum’ is significantly better economically (NPV, BCR and capital cost) than the ‘New Runway’ option, even with increased access to destinations for the ‘New Runway.'

The economic assessment results (as well as environmental aspects) give a strong indication that the project, based on the ‘New Runway’, should have been re-evaluated, unless more information was made available to show otherwise.  The new CASA regulations also allow 'Do Nothing' to be a viable option.

View the AEIS Submission by SCEC

(cover letter, summary, attachment 1, attachment 2 , attachment 3)

Where to from here

Notwithstanding, SCC progressed to the commercial partnership stage.  In particular, the deal situation of the ‘New Runway’ creates a far more complex funding, operational and risk arrangement than the ‘unchanged’ nature of the ‘Do Nothing’ option.

It is still not clear that improvement of the previous economic assessments (if any), and the nature of the financial arrangements, are sufficient to offset the complexity of the deal arrangement compared to the simplicity for ‘Do Nothing’ (until further details are provided). The ‘Do Nothing’ alternative does not require the need to implement extensive mitigation and offset requirements for the environment and (yet to be determined) cultural heritage issues.