Former Ballina shire councillor Margaret Howes is shaping up for a ‘dogfight’ over a plan to lease out the Ballina/Byron Gateway Airport.
In a submission to this week’s council meeting, Ms Howes said leasing the airport would create noise issues for residents in the flight path.
‘Every morning I experience the whine of Jetstar flying overhead my home on its way to land at Ballina airport,’ she said.
‘I know this is the beginning of the noise problem if the council leases the airport.
‘After all, it would be leased on the basis of being a money-maker and that means increasing aviation activity.’
Ms Howes, who is a pilot herself, said people in the flight path of the Gold Coast Airport were already in organized lobby groups to stop the noise there.
‘The Gold Coast airport is loaded with flying schools training overseas students, and a scheduled passenger jet landing and taking off every five minutes,’ she said.
‘Ballina has already got the parachute planes droning their way up to 14,000 feet, as the Gold Coast doesn’t want them.
‘What does Ballina get out of this?’
She said the parachute plane operators bring their clients down from the Gold Coast in a stretched limo, they jump from a plane, and then head back to the Gold Coast sipping champagne with ‘not a cent spent in Ballina’.
Ms Howes is hoping her submission does not fall on deaf ears when Ballina councillors hold their first meeting of the year on Thursday.
At that meeting, the council will decide whether to accept a tender from ‘The Airport Group’ to oversee the leasing of the airport.
After reviewing submissions, staff have recommended that The Airport Group’s tender should be accepted to undertake a scoping study of the long term leasing options of the Ballina Byron Gateway Airport for the amount of $110,000.
The recommendation would give the council the ‘right to not proceed to Stage 2 of the contract, and retain the right to call for fresh tenders for Stage 2, subject to further negotiations with The Airport Group in respect to any bonus paid above an agreed transactional value for Stage 2’.
Echonetdaily reported last week that council is expected to appoint a consultant to drive and oversee the leasing of the airport, which currently receives about 500,000 passengers a year.
Cr Wright said improvements to facilities at the airport would increase that number to around 750,000 a year, making it the second largest regional airport in New South Wales behind Newcastle.
Cr Wright confirmed that Ballina would be applying for $6 million from a $50 million funding package announced by the state government last week to upgrade regional airports.
He said the funding would be used to triple the size of the departure terminal, build more shops, toilets and a sports bar.