Owen Hasler of Gunnedah writes:
I write in order to express my grave concerns about the recent decision by Gunnedah Shire Council to award a tender to Airport Consulting Group for default traffic Option 2 for the upgrade of the Gunnedah Airport which required an increase to the total project budget by $4,585,731.
Council, having received $3,858,500 in grant funding ($2,014,440 from the Community Infrastructure Fund Phase 3 and $1,844,060 from Resources for Regions fund) needs to fund the balance of the cost being the amount $4,585,731 (including added contingencies).
As a former mayor of the council which worked very hard, including some 10 public consultation meetings with the community, in order to achieve permission to pursue a 28 per cent rate rise above rate pegging over a 4 year period (2013-16), with the objective to ensure the ongoing viability and financial security of council, I find it difficult to justify this council decision in regard to the airport upgrade on the basis that:
1) There was no recent consultation with the community (or aero club) which would indicate support for the proposed major upgrade,
2) The project was not budgeted for in this financial year beyond the grants received, and
3) The decision does not guarantee the return of a regular passenger service to Gunnedah airport.
From my experience Gunnedah residents have repeatedly shown their preference for Tamworth based air services based on the fact that Tamworth airlines:
i) Utilise larger aircraft,
ii) Provide greater options in terms of flights each day, and
iii) The airport, being on the western side of Tamworth, is easily accessible (within 45 minutes drive) from Gunnedah.
As a ratepayer, I am very disappointed that council has taken this decision without consultation with the community despite the obvious potential financial impact upon council – and with no guarantee that a continuing long term airline service will be a direct outcome.
I therefore, understand why councillors Fuller, Luke, McGrath and Moses opposed the motion and applaud them for so doing.