The Coffs Harbour Chamber of Commerce believes that the upcoming Coffs Harbour City Council decision on the future of the management operations of Coffs Harbour Regional Airport and Enterprise Park is critical for the future of the City, and removes the risk and financial commitment to ratepayer for generations to come.
Below is the transcript of the public speech the Chamber made to the Coffs Harbour City Council Meeting when it last considered this issue.
The Chamber believes its relevance to the upcoming meeting and decision is arguably even more crucial.
“The recommendation before you this evening is arguably THE most important decision to come before this term of council. Why? Because it sets the foundation from which a multitude of enhancements, and real future city growth will evolve.
It is truly a generational prospect and must be viewed not from the guise of a short-term fix but a 50 to 100 year vision that will become your legacy. The Chamber are the first to stand and applaud the evolution, growth, and indeed management to date of the Coffs Harbour Regional Airport by our council. The passion, tenacity and love for this facility that Dennis Martin has displayed over his 10 year tenure is truly remarkable, and worthy of him being awarded his OAM, and we thank him for his service to the City. With Dennis departing this clearly means that a definitive path of action must be taken tonight to ensure that a smooth and timely transition takes place.
We would like to point out some powerful reasons for this recommendation to be unanimously supported tonight:
1. Accelerated outcomes – from all private lease operator arrangements that we have investigated (and I’m sure you have been privy to within the confidential report by the Airport Group) it is clear that private investment will provide deliverables that far exceed possible expectations from a ratepayer funded perspective, as well as significantly reduced time-frames.
2. Divestment of airport operational and organisational risks from council and ratepayers to the private operator
3. Divestment of council financial and resource commitments from airport operations to other critical council infrastructure and community needs
4. Significant upfront capital windfall to off-set upcoming project completion, coupled with ongoing revenue
5. The ability to structure a commercial arrangement that protects current tenants, council interests, and requires defined outcomes for the city
6. The rapid completion, leasing and ongoing management of the Airport Enterprise Park
7. The very real opportunity to deliver Coffs to the world, and bring the world directly to Coffs.
Consider these current ironies and imagine the possibilities with the new Management structure:
– Coffs HARBOUR has been awarded the World Festival and Event City 4 years running…yet we can’t fly the world directly into Coffs
– We are entering our 9th year of World Rally Championships…yet imagine if we could fly them in direct
– We have hosted World Touch and Oztag titles with the latter delivering 29 countries and 5000 competitors and support personnel…yet we can’t fly them in direct
– We have the CEX International Stadium….yet we don’t have an international airport.
– Screenwave International Film Festival…International Buskers Festival…the list goes on
– From 2013 to 2018 exports from Coffs Harbour (internationally and domestically outside Coffs) have increased 120% for manufacturing, 75% for wholesale trade, and 20% for agri-business yet these companies are required to transport by road to Sydney, Brisbane or Toowoomba to get them out of the country, crippling business opportunity, export growth opportunity, and denying Coffs its hard earned right to be front and Centre on the world export stage.
Why are these important to tonight…because tonight’s decision is the foundation of so much more for this city than just who manages the airport moving forward.
When Sunshine Coast Airport private lease arrangements commenced in early 2017 after 17 expressions of interest were received, the Mayor of the Sunshine Coast said “Our partnership will strengthen and grow the airport’s services and capabilities, contribute significantly to the economic growth of our region and at the same time, enable council to maintain an economic interest in the airport – thus ensuring ratepayers share in the airport’s performance into the future. Furthermore, the partnership will limit any long term adverse impact on council’s financial position or on our ratepayers. He went on to say, “The partnership will ultimately enable more direct flights to more locations in Australia, Asia and the Western Pacific. Those new routes will boost our tourism and international trade and help our export businesses, particularly those operating in the food and agri-business sectors, so they get their products and services to markets faster and more efficiently.”
The operators were able to firmly cement the Sunshine Coast Airport as the most environmentally friendly airport on the planet, achieving recognition as a Carbon Neutral operation by the Airport Carbon Accreditation Program in March this year. A 24% reduction in carbon emissions, a 9% reduction in electricity consumption per passenger, and an 11% reduction in waste to land-fill. Coffs Harbour can be next.
We have had dialogue with current airport tenants, and indeed councilors, who express concern regarding the risk of elevated costs/charges that private operations may result in. In response to this it is important to remember that as the lessor (this council) and the incredibly talented council staff or consultants have the opportunity to structure the lease terms to protect, stipulate, or require certain operating criteria to be met, including upfront and ongoing lease fees to the successful applicant.
Finally we remind Councillors that in the report to Council earlier this year by the Airport Group (Australia’s pre-eminent airport operations consultancy firm) the professional opinion was that of the 23 objectives set out for Coffs Harbour’s desired outcomes the only model that met every criteria was the lease option.
Noting, and I quote, “the lease model is the only model that gives seperation of financial, operational and resourcing responsibility”. Anything but acceptance of this model clearly is a message that this council would not only accept a position that only fulfills part off their own criteria, but that they would be willing to ignore expert opinion and experience that ratepayers invested in receiving.
The time for growth crippling procrastination and indecision from some civic leaders must end now, or shall the lack of courage, vision, and opportunity on their watch be forever remembered by future generations as regions around us prosper. What will you be remembered for in your term on Council? What will be your legacy to this city? Will it be sound decision making based on expert opinion and the best interest of the city, or will it be that this Council let tangible opportunities slip through its grasp?
Make sure when generations look back on the 6th December 2018 that it was you that was pivotal in securing the long term, fiscally responsible, risk minimised future for our airport, our Enterprise Park, our exporters, our businesses, our tourism sector, our region and its ratepayers.
This is your time, this is our time, this is the next critical step in the future of Coffs Harbour’s connectivity and growth to the world, and The Chamber implores you to adopt this recommendation tonight.”
The above is a release by the Coffs Harbour Chamber of Commerce made via their Facebook page – Wednesday 27 November 2019.
Other stories on this issue can be found here; https://www.inframationgroup.com/australias-coffs-harbour-airport-tender-within-three-months