• Sydney Metro Airports says it spends $20,000 per year on mowing the glider runways at Camden. (Google Earth image)
    Sydney Metro Airports says it spends $20,000 per year on mowing the glider runways at Camden. (Google Earth image)

Lease increases of between 225% and 550% are threatening the future of gliding at Camden Airport according a statement released by Southern Cross Gliding Club (SCGC) yesterday.

The club operates from grass runways on the south side of Camden Airport with hangars and club rooms, and has been shocked by the new lease conditions offered to them by Sydney Metro Airports (SMA) and First State Super, which owns the leases on both Camden and Bankstown.

"Countless teenagers have started their commercial and military pilot careers with SCGC," said Southern Cross Gliding Club president Justin Couch. "First State Super, trading on their ethical reputation, have let their property managers run unchecked in gouging the local aviation groups.

"It's upsetting to see such a short-term, naked money grab by the airport owners, who have no interest in fostering long-term growth of aviation in our country. "

SCGC has accused SMA of proposing "extortionate" lease increases, as well as new lease conditions that SCGC says would give them ownership and access control rights to club assets that have been developed with club funds and government grants.

"In addition, they are seeking to gain access to recent Sports Australia grants that would have provided upgraded facilities targeted at increasing youth and female participation in aviation for their own commercial property development schemes," the SCGC statement says.

Sydney Metro Airports did not deny the lease increases, telling Australian Flying that they believed the new rates were fair.

“Camden Airport has been proud to serve the local aviation community, creating economic value for the Camden and Greater Western Sydney area, for more than 80 years," a spokesperson said.

“Historically we have provided special interest users such as the Southern Cross Gliding Club and Sydney Gliding with tenancies at the airport at heavily discounted rates. However, in order to be able to fund ongoing improvement of the airport’s facilities, now and into the future, for the benefit of all its users, we are now seeking to negotiate lease renewals for the gliding clubs at fair market rates.

“There are substantial costs associated with the maintenance and upkeep of the club’s facilities, which the airport has absorbed for a number of years. The cost of mowing the gliding strip at the airport alone is more than $20,000 p.a.

“Camden Airport hopes that the Clubs will continue to operate from the Airport, and remains open to constructive discussions in that regard.”

SMA has denied any attempt to take over SCGC assets and in fact has offered to invest in new facilities with government funds that were granted for that purpose.

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