Thursday, May 30, 2024

Wagga community asked to fight for airport’s future

Wagga Wagga City Council is urging the local and wider regional community to get involved in its fight to retain the lease on the Wagga Wagga Airport, beyond June 2025 when the current lease expires.

Council has launched an advocacy campaign for the Commonwealth Department of Defence to enter into a new and improved lease with Council to operate the community asset.

Residents, businesses, regional councils and other stakeholders are being encouraged to write letters of support for renewing the lease to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence, Richard Marles and to Member for Riverina, Michael McCormack.

“We want to see our airport stay in the community’s hands; it plays a critical role as a social and economic lifeline for our whole region,” said Mayor, Dallas Tout.

“It provides essential services and connection for the region to the rest of Australia, for families, individuals, businesses, education and health services, along with aviation training, maintenance, and general aviation.

“The airport is currently run with a community focus and with the emphasis on prioritising and optimising the broader economic and social needs to keep costs low for residents and businesses.

“We are concerned that privatisation will push up costs and create another barrier for people in our region.

“We need your help to let the Commonwealth Government know how privatisation of this vital infrastructure would impact you or your organisation.”

Wagga Wagga Mayor, Dallas Tout.

Where other airports were gifted to communities, or sold to communities for a dollar, Wagga Wagga Airport is currently leased at around $200,000 per year, with any improvements to the airport paid for by the community but owned by the Commonwealth Government, the Mayor said.

Council recently constructed a taxiway at a cost of $5.3 million, to which the Commonwealth Government did not contribute any funding, he said.

Council’s current 30-year lease of the airport from the Department of Defence is due to expire in June 2025.

According to the Mayor, while a formal determination from Defence has not yet been made, a decision to privatise the Wagga Airport through a commercial lease appears imminent.

“Ratepayers have made a significant financial contribution towards capital expenditure of the airport over the past 30 years, and we believe it should be treated as a community asset, not for private enterprise to profit from,” Mayor Tout said.

“We are hopeful that through advocacy the Commonwealth Government will reconsider its position and will not further disadvantage regional communities, but time is of the essence!

“There are just over 12 months remaining to resolve this issue, so please, get involved, get writing, or head online and let the government know you want to keep our airport in the community’s hands.

“It doesn’t have to be a long or complicated submission, we just want you to have the opportunity to voice what the airport and its services and accessibility mean to you, and how important you feel it is to maintain an airport where servicing the whole community is the priority, not making a profit,” the Mayor said.

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