Trains, planes, automobiles . . .

June 8, 2023 BY

The Geelong Chamber of Commerce played an instrumental role in the development of Avalon Airport.

From the 1960s to the end of 1980s, Geelong’s population grew faster than Victoria’s as a whole. It was a turbulent period in economics and politics and the Chamber fought battles on several fronts to promote business growth in the region.

The results were initially dramatic.

In 1961 the Alcoa Company established an aluminium smelter at Point Henry. Ford, Shell Australia, International Harvester and Australian Portland Cement all extended their operations in the following years.But in the mid-1970s, the effects of the first oil price crisis, downturns in the world economy, high unemployment, inflation and cuts to protective tariffs all had negative impacts on Geelong’s manufacturing industries.

In 1975, the Chamber lobbied the federal government over plans for the development of the motor vehicle industry.

The Chamber wanted export incentives to assist the expansion of the industry and the replacement of imports of components.

Meanwhile, in face of competition from other regional facilities, the Chamber was also fighting to defend Geelong’s status as a port.

Other infrastructure matters also had priority on the Chamber’s agenda.

Plans for the duplication of the Geelong-Melbourne railway line from Little River to Corio ended up with gratifying results, with the project’s completion scheduled for 1981.

Some of the Chamber’s most ambitious plans, however, got little support from government and other bodies and, unfortunately never came to fruition.

These included proposals for Victorian water-sports complex located at Belmont Common, a Formula 1 Grand Prix motor racing track, and a ‘Geelong 500’ motor race to be held in 1984.

One small step, though, would have greater ramifications for Geelong and the entire region’s future.

This was a joint submission made with the GRC, the VCM and the Shire of Corio proposing the development of Avalon Airport for future commercial use.

The proposal eventually resulted in a trial operation, the first stage in a process that would lead to the establishment of Victoria and Melbourne’s second major airport – a facility that is continuing to grow and provide increasing benefits to the region today.