Local, Opinion/Comment

Mayor uses casting vote again – this time to progress airport ‘privatisation’

Last night’s Coffs Harbour City Council meeting again ended up split four-four on a contentious issue that the Mayor again used her casting vote to break.

By The Editor

This time the issue was whether to progress on with the proposed 99 year lease of the Coffs Harbour Airport, which is effectively a form of privatisation although land ownership would remain with the CHCC.

Council was given the Coffs Harbour Regional Airport in 1984,when the Commonwealth Department of Transport transferred ownership under the Airport Local Ownership Plan.

Coffs Harbour Regional Airport – The Mayor used her casting vote again last night – this time to advance the effective ‘privatisation’ of this community asset.

As part of that agreement, the airport was upgraded to F28 jet standard in 1986. Council became responsible for all the development and operational costs of the airport when the Commonwealth discontinued the Airport Local Ownership Plan in 1991.

Last night Councillors had to consider tender bids for the lease.

Unfortunately we as ratepayers don’t know what the bid amounted to because much of the hearing on it was ‘in camera’ due to ‘commercial in confidence’ considerations.

As an aside we would argue that the term ‘Commercial in Confidence’ represents quite possibly the three most ‘weasely’ of all cojoined ‘weasel words’ these days.

What we are pretty sure of however is that there were a minimal number of bids. Possibly as low as just one.

We know anecdotally that some Councillors were surprised at how ‘good the bid was’.

We don’t know if that was good as in ‘good in today’s circumstances.’

Or good as in ‘good enough for us to consider rezoning.’

Or good as in ‘good let’s take some quick cash now, we need it for the CCS because we can’t sell anything else’.

Or all the above. Take your pick.

There might even be some other things we haven’t thought of.

Forced to break a 4-4 tie again?

What we do know is that Councillors Amos, Arkan, Swan and Townley were underwhelmed by what they saw and that Councillors Addendorf, Ceccatto, Knight and Rhoades were in the ‘it’s a good bid’ camp.

Yes, four-four. Again.

And yes Mayor Knight voted against Speaker Dennison’s long standing rule regarding status quo convention. Again.

Here is last night’s Prime 7 News report on the airport motion before Council; https://www.prime7.com.au/news/29059-airports-future

We also know that there is evidence aplenty worldwide that shows when a public monopoly is privatised the privatised monopoly gouges its captive market.

What the ratepayers of the LGA’s affected by the potential sale may come to think of all this will be historically interesting but possibly all too late. And that is because the Coffs Harbour Regional Airport serves Coffs Harbour, Bellingen, Nambucca and lower Clarence Valley Council citizens.

It must be comforting for the denziens of those four LGA’s to know that four Coffs Harbour Councillors can effectively make decisions on their behalf in regards to their future air transport costs and options.

Late News

We have been informed that a recission motion has been lodged in regard to the motion passed on the Mayor’s casting vote last night and that it is due to be heard at the next CHCC meeting on Thursday 10 September.

We will endeavour to keep you up to date on any ‘to-ing and fro-ing’ between then and now.

4 Comments

  1. PETER JOHN WARDMAN

    In 2018 the Regional Airport Users’ Action Group proposed that a National Airport Infrastructure Fund (NAIF) be established to provide grant funding to regional and local airports for approved major refurbishment and airport development works. The fund to be administered by the Commonwealth and receive part funding from the States on national interest grounds.
    In my view our Council should be pushing for that or something like it now rather than going down the pathway of betraying the interests of those who paid and continue to pay for our airport being the users, the Commonwealth and (presently to a lesser extent) the NSW Government.
    No ratepayers’ money has ever gone into our airport. Yet our Council has annually and at other times taken very significant amounts from the Airport Fund.
    The public are genuinely and justifiably sceptical when it comes to the privatisation of income generating public assets because it has and continues to lead to higher prices for the consumers and other users.

  2. The Coffs Harbour airport is an important hub for tourism, if it becomes too expensive for operator’s to land, and thus pass on extra fees through airfare, the area will be bypassed, leading to job losses.

    Coffs Harbour really is becoming a city of haves, and have-nots, and our Councillors must learn to remember that their decisions, can effect the poor for many decades to come, every time the rates go up it’s passed on via rents, and the cost of living.

  3. 40cmPedestalFan

    Let’s try this. Have a think through the discussions made by councillors and ask: which one speaks “on behalf of the community”.

    It’s an interesting exercise. Three councillors come to mind for me immediately. These are Councillors Amos, Townley and Swan. Councillors Townley and Swan especially. These are councillors who openly factor in ‘the community’ in their spoken arguments. That is, they say it out loud: “I think the community wants …” “When I visit that community I hear …” You get the drift.

    Now ask yourself: who doesn’t?

    These come immediately to my mind. Councillors Ceccatto, Addendorf and Rhoades. Rhoades speaks a lot about process: “This Councillors viewpoint can’t be heard because the motion moved overshadows the foreshadowed motion..” etc. But Ceccatto, and Addendorf (on the little I’ve heard him contribute) speak for themselves personally. “I believe development overall is beneficial …” and “I was involved for years on such and such with the airport and it can’t happen again…”

    What I’m getting to is that there’s a subtle but important difference in these approaches, and I mention it because it’s the only way I can see some Councillors changing their minds on critical issues.

    The difference is that some councillors do take their position as representative of the community in a meaningful and affecting way: their viewpoints are affected by what they experience when out and about amongst the people. Some others just assume that they are representative, and nothing more than that: I’m for development therefore I represent pro-development.

    That’s my experience, and I’d be interested in others’.

    Perhaps I could put it like this. Some councillors speak on behalf of what the community thinks and some speak on behalf of what they think personally. That’s certainly how it comes across.

    This subtle difference is critically important because every one of the insightful, strong and excellent arguments presented against leasing the airport (as one issue) will not make a wisp of difference to those councillors who want to lease it.

    Not a dint, not a hint, not a jot.

    But there is something that will change their viewpoint, and it’s the only one I can see under the current circumstances of our representatives being safely sequestered in their cocoon away from public influence.

    The councillors who want to lease the airport are decent people who will respond to community will. Nothing we write here, no media examination of their viewpoint will change anything (should that ever happen).

    Therefore the only way I can see good thinking and good representation occurring within chambers is that one, or all, councillors who oppose leasing the airport stands up and runs the issue through the media. They have to bring it on, themselves.

    If they merely wish to be satisfied by simply having a bit of a say at Council meetings, then so be it. But if they are spending all this time and effort, at considerable personal cost, to enact their elected position then why not go the extra yard and be a representative of conviction and courage. Stand up. Run your case through the media. Gather community responses and run that. Lead.

    And then, when it’s all done, when the community has spoken decisively and strongly, one way or another (which it will on this issue) do this: listen.

    And then make your decision, and present that informed, community viewpoint through your vote.

    On the airport issue, look for these names: Cr’s Amos, Swan, Arkan, Townley.

  4. 40cmPedestalFan

    [Those names of course are Amos, Swan, Arkan, Townley. The copy-paste from my rusty and oft-forgotten spellchecker cut them off in the comment above, but sadly somehow that ending above seems apposite, given the names would involve political courage, conviction and going the extra yard beyond what is already a considerable personal cost as a councillor. But you never know.]

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