Planning for economic development around a second-tier airport: A case study of Gold Coast Airport.

  • Isara Khanjanasthiti

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Traditionally, airports functioned solely for the air transport of passengers and freight with limited focus on other activities. However, airports have expanded significantly in terms of their size as well as operational scale and complexity due to the influence of several factors including the advancement in aircraft technologies, the deregulation and subsequent growth of the aviation industry, the privatisation of airport ownership and management rights and the increasing integration of non-aviation uses on airport land. Consequently, the role of airports in economic development has become more significant and sophisticated. Nevertheless, there has been limited investigation amongst planning scholars into the economic development role of airports, particularly those servicing non-capital cities. This research investigates planning constraints and opportunities for second-tier airports’ contribution to local and regional economic development. Through a multi-method approach encompassing spatial analysis, field observation, semi-structured interviews, policy analysis and literature review, the research explores a case study of Gold Coast Airport. The airport, as one of the major Australian airports to have undergone a privatisation process, not only is one of the fastest growing airports in Australia, but also uniquely spans a border between the states of Queensland and New South Wales and between two Local Government Areas (LGAs). As such, Gold Coast Airport has a major potential to contribute to regional economic development across the border.

Although Gold Coast Airport has made substantial economic development contributions, particularly due to its rapid growth and development since privatisation, the Gold Coast LGA has received most of the airport’s economic benefits, thus implying that the distribution of these benefits has been primarily limited to only one side of the border. The principal reason behind the uneven spatial distribution of Gold Coast Airport’s economic benefits is the adverse impact of the border on collaborative stakeholder relationships between Gold Coast Airport and government agencies. Whilst Gold Coast Airport has extensively collaborated with state and local governments on the Queensland side of the border, the airport has demonstrated relatively limited collaboration with stakeholders on the New South Wales side. There is also inadequate cross-border cooperation between state and local government agencies for planning and funding arrangements related to Gold Coast Airport. Whilst the existing planning frameworks recognise the role of Gold Coast Airport as an economic development driver, they currently lack strategic and statutory directions and cross-border recognition for promoting or capitalising on the airport’s economic benefits. Therefore, there is a need to adopt a more regional, rather than local, approach in promoting Gold Coast Airport’s economic benefits. Such an approach will allow the airport’s economic benefits to be distributed not only more evenly across the border, but also at a more regional scale. The key lesson is that planners should promote and capitalise on economic benefits of airports at both local and regional scales. A more regional planning perspective will also enable a significant amount of financial and policy support to be solicited across a jurisdictional border, which can further promote economic benefits of airports.
Date of Award13 Oct 2021
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorBhishna Bajracharya (Supervisor) & Daniel O'Hare (Supervisor)

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