Will council backflip on airport lease decision?
“THE cons are outweighing the pros … I do not believe it is a good deal.”
These are the words of one Coffs Harbour City Councillor who is behind a move to rescind the council’s recent decision to push forward with the long term lease of the airport to a private company.
The council may backflip on the decision depending on whether the rescission motion put on the table by councillors John Arkan, Paul Amos and Tegan Swan is successful at Thursday night’s meeting.
“The motivation behind this rescission motion is simply that it is a big decision - it’s the biggest decision councillors have made for many, many terms,” Cr Amos said.
“The lease is for an extremely long time and we’ve got to make sure we’ve assessed our options correctly. We’ve got to make sure we’re comparing apples with apples.”
It was a tied vote to progress to the next stage of the lease process at the previous meeting.
The Mayor’s casting vote brought it over the line, meaning council would officially enter into negotiations with the binding tenders for the lease.
However Cr Amos, who voted against progressing with the lease, has a number of concerns moving forward and is hoping this decision will now be rescinded.
His first concern is the lack of clarity over just how much control will be handed to the private company in terms of operating hours, flight paths and arrival and departure times.
“We’ve got to consider the ramifications of having our airport in the middle of town and not being able to control the operating hours,” he said.
Secondly, Cr Amos is concerned over how much control the private company would have in deciding who will become the tenants of the Enterprise Park development.
He said council could be sacrificing the opportunity to bring “suitable” businesses to town, as opposed to the potential for less desirable tenants setting up shop in the park.
“If a big company wants to come to Coffs we can use that leverage, we can give them cheap land,” he said.
Currently information on the proposed lease, including how long it will be for, remains confidential to the public.
But, considering the “very long” length of the lease, Cr Amos believes that the council is not receiving a good deal.
He believes that with the current timing amid COVID-19 and the lack of clarity, the decision to move forward should be delayed and further assessment should be made.
“With COVID-19 we’re in uncharted waters. For me it’s such a big decision to make - so why not interrupt that?”
The new motion the three councillors will move on Thursday calls for further investigations to be undertaken surrounding the implications of having a 50-year lease option, as well as an assessment into the advantages of keeping the airport in council’s hands versus leasing it out.