IT was a case of deja vu at Coffs Harbour City Council’s recent ordinary meeting when the controversial issue of the long-term lease of Coffs Harbour Airport came up.
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At Council’s last meeting on 27 August, Coffs Harbour Mayor Cr Denise Knight used her casting vote to progress negotiations for the proposed long term lease of the Council asset, following a tied vote on the matter by councillors.
After the meeting, Cr John Arkan, Cr Paul Amos and Deputy Mayor Cr Tegan Swan gave notice of their intention to rescind the resolution that Council progress the airport lease through negotiation, that Council receive a report on the outcome of the negotiations, and that any proceeds from the long term lease of the airport not be used to fund the Cultural and Civic Space Project.
Instead, the three councillors intended to move that Council bring back a report containing further information on the implications of potential financial impacts of an additional 50 year lease option, provide a further detailed direct comparison on the financial implications and advantages of maintaining airport management under Council control versus leasing options, and seek further clarity as to Council’s control over the airport’s hours of operation, projected flight paths and anticipated arrival and departure time over the length of the lease.
At Council’s recent meeting on Thursday, 10 September, Mayor Denise Knight was again forced to use her casting vote to deny the rescission motion and proceed with Council’s previous resolution to progress with airport lease negotiations, following another tied vote on the issue by councillors.
Cr Sally Townley, Cr Paul Amos, Cr John Arkan and Cr Tegan Swan voted for the rescission motion, and Cr Michael Adendorff, Cr Keith Rhoades, Cr George Cecato and Cr Denise Knight voted against the rescission motion, resulting in a 4-4 tied vote.
Cr John Arkan expressed his concern at the recent Council meeting over the current binding bid on offer to Council for the airport lease, and a lack of information about the operation and effects of the proposed lease.
“This doesn’t stack up as a good deal,” Cr Arkan said regarding the offer.
“It’s actually part of our responsibility to have the most information available so that we can make a really good decision.
“The principle reason for rescinding this is that the councillors believe that there is more information sought.”
Cr Swan agreed with Cr Arkan that the bid Council had before it for the airport lease was “not a good deal”, and called on fellow councillors to discuss the issue further to achieve a better outcome for the future.
“We are potentially getting ourselves into a situation where we are doing our community out of alot of future revenue and opportunity,” Cr Swan said.
“Let’s make sure we get the best deal possible, please let’s try and get a good deal, not just a deal.”
Cr Paul Amos also agreed that the airport lease bid on offer was not sufficient, and expressed his concern over the reputational damage Council may incur if it proceeds with the airport lease negotiations, then doesn’t follow through with accepting the binding bid on offer.
“I think if you divide the dollar terms by the years involved, this is not a very good deal,” Cr Amos stated.
Cr Amos urged councillors to not renounce control of the Council asset, like it had done in the past with other Council assets, resulting in negative impacts to Council.
“The Enterprise Park is the secret, that is the golden egg, it will either lay it for us or it will lay it for someone else,” Cr Amos said.
By Emma DARBIN