The nearby council that said ‘No’ to airport privatisation and now it’s a raging success

This is the story of a local government area (LGA) similar in size that was tempted by airport privatization, looked into it.  Said No.  And then turned their airport into a roaring success.

And they are now about a 2 ½ hour drive away too.

By The Editor

The name of that LGA is Ballina.


In  2015 they were approached by an infrastructure management company acting on behalf of superannuation funds and were asked to consider privatising or leasing their airport.  Ballina is the airport for Byron Bay.

At the time Ballina was the 14th busiest airport in the country.

By June 2016 however, one year after being approached, and having done lots of due diligence the Ballina Council had decided not to privatise the airport.

The then Ballina Mayor David Wright said then that ; “the airport was a ‘fantastic asset’ for the shire, going ‘really really well’ and would not be sold.” 

Although long term leasing had been looked at the decision was taken not to do that too.

Cr Keith Williams said the airport was currently ‘driving substantial government investment into the shire’ and a private airport ‘would not be eligible for’ Government ‘funding’.

By June of this year the Ballina Airport was receiving approximately 530,000 visitor arrivals a year and was also announcing a widening their runway from 30 to 45 meters so as to cater for larger aircraft. Thanks, in part, to a $10 million grant from the federal Government towards this $23 million project funded through the Building Better Regions Fund.

According to the Ballina Shire Council’s website the “Ballina Byron Gateway Airport is a business unit of Ballina Shire Council. Management is responsible for the safe and secure operation, maintenance, commercial development and strategic planning functions of the Airport.

Ballina Byron Gateway Airport manages the airport terminal building and public car park, all internal access roads, all runways, taxiways and aprons, visual aids and all serviced land at the Airport. It also manages the concessions and leasing activities at the airport and agreements and lease of land to relevant airport customers and stakeholders.

The airport operates 24 hrs a day, handles aircraft movements of around 20,000 per annum, and the terminal has a capacity of over 500,000 passengers per annum.”

In the 2018-19 year the airport made a $4.47m profit.  As reported in the 2019 Ballina Shire accounts.

One wonder’s why this case study was not mentioned by the Coffs Harbour City Council (CHCC) in their “airport lease information sheet” ?- See;

After all Ballina is reasonably close and is in Northern NSW isn’t it?

Could Coffs Harbour have done this?

Pin on Memes

One of the major reasons the CHCC gave for the need to lease the airport was that they “did not have the expertise to manage the Coffs Coast Regional Airport.” 

Well Ballina Shire Council hired an expert airport manager and look what they have done! There are quite a few of them in the job market at the moment actually.

Doesn’t this raise serious questions about our highly paid Council Executive, in that from what can be seen, they genuinely did not try the same course of action?

OK Ballina Airport is the gateway to Byron Bay, that we understood.

But there is no reason Coffs Harbour couldn’t have generated approximately 75% of the passenger numbers that Ballina has with a real strategy to build tourism and other aviation travel with partner Councils such as Bellingen, Nambucca and the Clarence Valley.

But is that sort of vision beyond our current council?  Have they taken the apparently ‘easy’ path instead? 

And if so why?


See more on this from our story yesterday – amended with late breaking information late yesterday afternoon;

4 thoughts on “The nearby council that said ‘No’ to airport privatisation and now it’s a raging success

  1. If someone is in the vicinity of the city centre could you please read this terrific work by CCO to Councillors Dunning and Kruger?

    They’ll be easy to find, but you’ll have to interrupt them. They’re in their boxer shorts, deep in the bowels of the C.ex, limbering up for the November fight of their lives tonight, their Main Event. Cr Dunning is rubbing Dencorub into his vocal chords to help fall in love all over again with the sounds of sageness in his every word; Kruger is sticking pencils into his eyeballs to relax.

  2. Evidence indicates that our council does not have the expertise to do its job in managing the major issues of the LGA. That hasn’t stopped them from claiming the right to construct a building which tens of thousands of ratepayers don’t want.

    Claiming a lack of expertise in airport management as an excuse to give away a potential earner is simply bad LGA management – again.

  3. I cannot fathom what would possess these councillors to entertain the idea of leasing out a ‘cash cow’. The potential to turn a multi million dollar profit is worth managing, as we have done so to date. And I agree about the highly paid Council executive needs to have more transparency. What are we actually paying for these individuals making decisions ‘not in the best interests of the community’? We need the Minister for Local Government to stop sitting on her hands and give the community the opportunity to vote in a new Council. March sounds good to me!

  4. Here is our Council embarking on a building complex with limited earning capacity that will undoubtedly cost a hundred million dollars much of which will be debt financed and they are at the very same time removing one of the cities major income earning assets. Makes you wonder what’s really behind the City Centre Project and all these asset sales.

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