Psst. Anyone want to buy or lease an airport? Both Ballina and Lismore councils have now confirmed they are considering the future of their airports.
Ballina mayor David Wright said Ballina Council would look at appointing a consultant to prepare a report about leasing Ballina Byron Gateway Airport at its meeting next Tuesday.
‘It would definitely not be a sale. Because we own the whole area we wouldn’t want to lose control,’ he said.
Cr Wright said the airport continued to grow and would require a large investment of about $20 million to provide further infrastructure for that growth.
Cr Wright said passenger numbers had increased from 260,000 two years ago, to 400,000 at present, with numbers projected to increase to 500,000 by the end of next year.
He said $14m had recently been spent on the runway and other areas of the airport, and the Federal Government was going to spend $12m on a new fire station.
But as demand for services at the airport continues to grow, another $20 million will be required to upgrade infrastructure into the future.
‘We know there are a lot of companies out there, such as superannuation companies, which are looking for long term investments and ours is a very viable business,’ he said.
‘We want the airport to grow and offer better facilities. We want to make it better for everyone and this is mainly about putting the case for infrastructure.’
But Ballina Councillor Keith Williams has warned his colleagues to be careful of so-called ‘magic puddings’, following the staff recommendation to consider a long-term lease.
‘We need to be wary of consultants who bring forward proposals with lots of “mights” and very few “wills”,’ Cr Williams said today.
‘The only thing that we can be sure of at this stage, is that consultants and advisors make a lot of money regardless of whether their clients fare so well.’
Cr Williams has been opposed to moves from The Greens to privatise Ballina Council’s commercial assets.
‘The idea that you can sell income-producing assets to build community infrastructure that then requires ongoing operational funding is voodoo economics’, he said.
‘While long term leasing seems superficially attractive, the devil is in the detail.’
Tuesday’s agenda item contemplates council running a competitive tendering process to select a consultant, who would then advise council on the various long term tenure options available and potential financial returns.
Meanwhile, Lismore council this week confirmed it is also considering either selling or leasing its airport.
Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell told Echonetdaily that no decision had been made, and she gave an assurance that existing tenants such as Rex Airlines and others would be fully consulted about the process.