Coffs Harbour councillors narrowly approve Airport lease

 

COFFS Harbour Airport will be leased to a private company by Coffs Harbour City Council, following Coffs Harbour councillors narrowly voting to privatise the airport at Council’s meeting on Thursday, 26 November.

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A last ditch attempt to change the minds of the four councillors who voted for the Airport lease was made at an Extraordinary Meeting of Council on Wednesday 2 December where Cr Sally Townley, Cr Tegan Swan and Cr Paul Amos called for a rescission motion on the Airport lease approval.

However, despite the pleas of the four councillors opposed to the lease, the rescission motion was defeated with the vote on the contentious issue once again tied 4-4 and Mayor Denise Knight stating that her casting vote was not required for the rescission motion to be defeated.

In December 2018, Council resolved to progress the Airport Lease Model for Coffs Harbour Airport to the next stages.

At Council’s meeting on 27 August, Council resolved to progress the airport long term lease through negotiation and to receive a report on the outcome of the negotiations.

Negotiations with Council’s preferred tenderer for the Airport commenced on 15 October and continued until 30 October.

Cr George Cecato supported Council staff recommendations to commence with the Airport lease at the recent ordinary Council meeting.

“I highly endorse that we approve the lease tonight, and look at a very bright and new future for our Coffs Harbour Airport.”

Cr Sally Townley questioned Council’s justification of entering into the Airport lease as a way of removing the risk Council faced as operator of the Airport.

“Management of an airport by Council allows for us to have input and setting into the landing fees, it allows us to have input and control over the hours of operation and those are things which we can adjust to give a public benefit, not just a benefit in financial terms to the Council.”

Cr John Arkan wished to look at alternative options to leasing the Airport.

“The funds available to the airport from government are substantial, and can grow and will benefit the airport under our management,” Cr Arkan said.

Cr Akan stated that the councillors all knew what Council was being offered for the lease and the length of the lease proposed, and he may have inadvertently mentioned that the lease was for 100 years.

“We’ve got a private company that understands the same risk and is willing to take it on for 100 years at a substantial pile of money,” Cr Arkan said.

Cr Tegan Swan said it was not a good time to be leasing the Airport in the current financial climate.

“At a point in time we did agree to go with a leasing option, right now though I don’t think it’s the best time given the current economic climate that we find ourselves in and the state of the aviation industry,” Cr Swan said.

The Council vote on the Airport lease was tied 4-4 at Council’s ordinary meeting on Thursday 26 November, with Mayor Denise Knight using her casting vote to proceed with the long-term lease.

Cr Denise Knight, Cr Michael Adendorff, Cr George Cecato and Cr Keith Rhoades voted for the Airport lease, and Cr Paul Amos, Cr John Arkan, Cr Tegan Swan and Cr Sally Townley voted against the lease.

 

By Emma DARBIN

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