A new aviation action group has emerged from the recent battle between Wagga City Aero Club and Wagga Wagga City Council over the planned introduction of parking charges at the local regional airport.
Called the Regional Airport Users Action Group (RAUAG), the group was formed to provide support for aviators from the GA and recreational sectors that are frustrated with councils increasing and adding new charges at airports without any consultation with users, and mismanagement and poor decisions by councils in running airports often against the advice of users.
RAUAG's spokesperson and driving force is Wagga City Aero Club president Geoff Breust. Breust says the first task of RAUAG is to collect data and factual information about issues with regional airports right across the country.
"With the facts we can then examine what options may be available to establish a better relationship between airport owner/operators and users – especially to achieve an outcome where everyone works together as a group with the right objectives," he told Australian Flying.
"Our experience is that many local government-run airports shy away from consultative arrangements with users and this often causes friction and potentially poor decision making.
"While the push for this has come from the private and recreational sub-sectors of general aviation, the issues involved apply equally to all users from airlines, to all forms of commercial operations fixed and rotary wing, private and commercial and recreational, maintenance and training services. It also covers leases and terminal services, fuel and in some cases air traffic services.
"Once sufficient data has been collected and reviewed with regard to some options for action it is proposed to approach the various industry associations to support a recommended approach."
Breust said that one possible approach could be to impose conditions on any Federal or State government grant to a local council for airport works that an airport advisory committee must be established with a terms of reference to overview the operational and financial performance of the airport.
Such committees could make recommendations direct to the elected body of council on all capital and maintenance works, annual operational budgets and charging arrangements.
With the help of AOPA Australia, Wagga City Aero Club was able to stave off the new charges at Wagga Wagga and extract a promise for a complete review of the airport's operation and financial model.
At the time of writing, RAUAG had garnered 90 members.