Coffs Harbour City Council is reported to have voted to move to the binding bids stage to select an experienced operator for a long-term airport lease at Thursday night’s Council meeting.
Councillors considered an evaluation report on non-binding bids received for the proposed airport lease submitted as part of an expressions of interest process which commenced earlier in the year.
The council’s Director of Business Services, Andrew Beswick, said the lease model, which has been adopted by more than 24 capital city and regional airports across Australia to to varying degrees of success, would nurture “positive change and a phase of growth for Coffs Harbour Airport and the entire community”.
Mr Beswick argued a long-term lease arrangement would bring new skills and operating experience to Coffs Harbour Airport and would potentially increase visitor numbers and possibly speed up progress on the enterprise park while also moving ahead with international and freight opportunities.
The airport is currently managed by a contractor with daily operations assumed by Council. Mr Beswick said leasing the airport would not only offer better prospects for the airport but would also remove Council from any legislative, regulatory or operational risks.
Interestingly evidence given to the Productivity Commission recently by Airlines for Australia and New Zealand on monopolising private ownership/management of airports was not mentioned by Mr Beswick or Council last night. Here is what they had to say in May 2018;
“Monopoly infrastructure operators have the ability to raise prices above a level that would prevail in competitive markets and have little incentive to improve services above a minimum standard of service quality, to the detriment of economic efficiency and the living standards of consumers.” (Emphasis added by Outlook)
Mr Beswick argued the successful lease holder would give the city access to proven airport management expertise and also bring in new investment to make the airport a greater success. “It will also potentially see freight and international opportunities progress quicker than what would have been possible under council management” Mr Beswick said.
Due to ‘commercial in confidence sensitivities’, at this stage, details of the interested bidders must remain confidential and private.
A report on the outcome of the binding bids stage is to be brought back to Council for consideration once completed.
Mr Beswick promised that as part of Council’s due diligence procedures, Council will guarantee the binding bids will be evaluated on a set of benchmark criteria which will include any benefits that the sale/lease would bring to the community both in the immediate now and long term future.