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February 28, 2021

Aerodrome funding found

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The launch of the Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome Museum in August this year. Promised funding is yet to be handed over.
The launch of the Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome Museum in August this year. Promised funding is yet to be handed over. Photo Melissa Hargraves

Chris Dobney

The mystery of what became of funding promised for the refurbishment of the Bellman Hangar at Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome appears to have been solved – it never left government coffers.

The $185,000 grant was first promised by the outgoing Labor government and again by incoming Page MP Kevin Hogan.

So certain was one local aviator that the money had been handed over that she launched a GIPA (freedom of information request) on Richmond Valley Council to find out what had become of it.

‘A beaming Kevin Hogan had his photo taken in the F-111 cockpit when the $185,000 was handed over,’ Margaret Howes wrote in a letter to Echonetdaily last week.

‘But where did the $185,000 end up? No one seems to know.’

Ms Howes’ GIPA failed to turn up much either, with Richmond Valley Council stating that ‘Council is not involved in the $185,000 grant and has no information to provide in response to this question’.

The GIPA also asked whether developer Peter Lynch/Evans Head Airpark P/L and/or David Lynch Building P/L will be paid any of the $185,000 for reimbursement of costs.

Peter Lynch has entered into a contract to buy part of the aerodrome and associated land from Richmond Valley Council for an airpark but has yet to take formal ownership.

His brother David Lynch is a builder who oversaw the refurbishment of the hangar, which now houses an aircraft museum including a decommissioned F-111 fighter.

The GIPA response denied that either man had received money from the grant.

Now, after reannouncing the grant yet again, Mr Hogan has told Echonetdaily the money has yet to be handed out. But he did tell us where it would be going.

‘About $130,000 of the grant will be paid to Richmond Valley Council and the remaining $50,000-odd to Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome Heritage Association (EHMAHA),’ his spokesperson said.

‘Kevin will contact EHMAHA shortly with the expectation the money will be handed over early next year.’

$1m for Grafton

But the Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome funding is small beer compared to another announcement made yesterday: confirmation that the $1 million refurbishment of Grafton airport, promised by the former Labor government, would still go ahead.

The $1.06 million project includes an extension of the passenger terminal, strengthening and correction of the runway and apron pavements and improved safety measures.

But the coalition has abandoned the previous government’s commitment for a $3.5 million makeover of the Casino saleyards, much to the disappointment of Richmond Valley Council.

Council’s GM John Walker says Mr Hogan will need to do better by his constituents.

‘We’re told that [the new Stronger Regions] fund is probably 12 months away so we’re really in limbo. We have no commitment from the Commonwealth. Kevin Hogan really needs to get some commitment from his coalition members and the minister,’ he told ABC local radio this morning.

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