Armidale Regional Council is exploring options for privatising the development of its regional airport.
Armidale Airport sits in the New England region of NSW and caters for helicopter operations, general aviation and has a Regular Public Transport (RPT) link to Sydney. Recent upgrades to the airport include a new terminal building, entry road and construction of a business park is underway.
It is believed that the NSW Government has contributed or promised $8 million in funding to the airport.
In February, the council released a document calling for Expressions of Interest (EOI) to enter a Competitive Dialogue canvassing options for development of the airport.
"The intent of this Competitive Dialogue EOI is to reach out to the market to seek interest and to open dialogue between Council and innovative operators who share our vision for providing high quality services to the communities of the Armidale Region and the broader New England area," the council states in the EOI document.
"The Council is open minded about how to optimise the development of the airport, its precinct and associated businesses. It is for this reason that we are seeking options from the market. This will be through a formal process that over a period of time and dialogue enables the Council to firm up its preferred options prior to a procurement process."
In the document, Armidale Regional Council states that all proposals could be considered during the Competitive Dialogue, including:
- ownership of a business park to be built with grants from the NSW government
- ownership of the airport
- ownership and management of the business park and/or the airport
- leasing the airport
- any other model of governance.
Ben Morgan, Executive Director of AOPA Australia said in an article on the AOPA website that involving private enterprise in the management of Armidale Airport had pitfalls for general aviation.
“With respect to Armidale, the sell off or lease of the airport precinct will certainly guarantee that all members of the community will be exposed to an environment of uncontrolled increases in fees and charges – everything from the cost of parking your car to accessing the terminal – along with the cost to the airlines, freight providers and, most importantly the costs imposed on general aviation," he said.
“In AOPA’s experience, there is not one privatised airport in the whole country where post acquisition user costs have not increased to unsustainable and unjust levels. Whilst under local government ownership, management of airports remain an invaluable community service providing a gateway for local tourism, travel, trade and commerce, we must highlight and stress that under privatised ownership the only priority is to create a profit – regardless of the community."
The EOI, which was first made public in February through advertising, is due to close on Tuesday, 19 March 2019.