Air­port plans up in the air

Augusta Margaret River Times - - News - War­ren Hately

Shire coun­cil­lor Peter Lane has ques­tioned a shared bud­get com­mit­ment to mar­ket­ing the Bus­sel­ton Air­port be­cause of on­go­ing “ru­mours” about in­ter­state flights.

De­bat­ing the most re­cent Capes Re­gional Or­gan­i­sa­tion of Coun­cils meet­ing with the City of Bus­sel­ton, Cr Lane said more in­for­ma­tion was needed be­cause of a $25,000 fund­ing con­tri­bu­tion by the Shire of Au­gus­taMar­garet River.

Stress­ing he had no fixed po­si­tion, Cr Lane said full dis­clo­sure of the City’s ef­forts to se­cure flights needed to dis­pel ru­mours ef­forts were “ex­hausted”.

The air­port’s $13 mil­lion ter­mi­nal is on hold pend­ing fur­ther de­vel­op­ment of flights as well.

“I’ve heard var­i­ous good and var­i­ous bad ru­mours,” he said last week.

“We’re about to hand over a sub­stan­tial amount for mar­ket­ing of the air­port.”

Cr Lane asked at what point the City would ac­cess the Shire funds, al­lo­cated for desti­na­tion mar­ket­ing, if no air­line car­rier was re­cruited.

“I’ve heard var­i­ous car­ri­ers have re­jected it, but though they are await­ing a car­rier, it seems they might have ex­hausted that list,” he said.

City of Bus­sel­ton chief ex­ec­u­tive Mike Archer said de­lays to the ter­mi­nal were not “ideal”, with a fund­ing agree­ment valid un­til De­cem­ber.

“We have ad­vised stake­hold­ers that we re­main op­ti­mistic about se­cur­ing an air­line to the fa­cil­ity,” he said.

“Ef­forts will not be ex­hausted, even once we have for­mally se­cured an air­line, (be­cause) ne­go­ti­a­tions will re­main on­go­ing to at­tract other providers to the air­port and ex­pand ser­vices to the South West from both do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional lo­ca­tions.”

Mr Archer said the City did not hold the Shire’s $25,000 pledge.

“The City will ask those who have made a com­mit­ment to the air­port mar­ket­ing fund to for­ward their first con­tri­bu­tion once an air­line has been se­cured,” he said.

At last week’s meet­ing, other coun­cil­lors ar­gued against amend­ing the Shire’s pol­icy to in­sist funds were deleted or blocked un­til a car­rier was se­cured.

Shire pres­i­dent Pam Town­shend said she would be “em­bar­rassed” to go back to CapeRoc re­cant­ing the of­fer. “It would quite se­ri­ously dam­age our re­la­tion­ship with the City,” she said.

Coun­cil veter­ans Ian Earl and Mike Smart said the com­mit­ment was vi­tal to the re­gion, with Cr Smart not­ing the Au­gusta-Mar­garet River Shire did well out of the deal be­cause Bus­sel­ton shoul­dered the bulk of the costs.

Cr Earl said any about-face would be “a real slap in the face”.

Cr Lane wel­comed news the Shire would seek more in­for­ma­tion.

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