BLEAK OUTLOOK: Coffs Harbour Aero Club directors Norman Turner, Tony Donelan and Stewart Mackie with the club’s Jabiru aircraft.
BLEAK OUTLOOK: Coffs Harbour Aero Club directors Norman Turner, Tony Donelan and Stewart Mackie with the club’s Jabiru aircraft. PHOTO: Trevor Veale

Sky-high rate rise may crash Aero Club

AUSTRALIA'S oldest continuously functioning aero club may have to fold if Coffs Harbour Council proceeds to charge Coffs Harbour Aero Club $32,000 a year in rent.

It would be the third closure of a Coffs Harbour licensed club in five months.

The council has told the club its rent will rise more than 400%, a plan meant to begin from July 1.

The club founded in 1928 has not been offered a renewal of its current five-year lease and the council is also asking for a business plan, so members fear for the future.

Aero club members say a business plan is not appropriate because they are not a business, but a non-profit community organisation.

Aero club president Michael Lodge said he understood the council was under financial pressure, but so were local community organisations which relied on volunteers and goodwill.

"We could probably afford a 20% increase in our rent or even a 30% increase, but there is no way we can afford more than 400%," Michael said.

"That increase is just ridiculous".

"We've been here nearly 90 years and the council have been good to us.

"By the time we pay security we don't make a lot of money and we have spent $50,000 on renovations in the last five years.

"We just want a fair deal."

Aero club director Tony Donelan said they hosted two or three functions a month at the club and staffed the bar themselves from 6pm until midnight to keep down costs and their buildings had been built by voluntary labour.

"We have also been providing a free shark spotting service ever since that fatal shark attack a year and half ago," he said.

Director Norman Turner said the council had given them two options, neither of which was acceptable.

The council's director of business services, Andrew Beswick, told councillors last week that there could be some negotiations and phasing in of the increases. If required, the matter could back to the council.

The council has on public exhibition a development application for a 100-lot, 43ha industrial subdivision of the airport's general aviation section and vacant land to the north.

Coffs Harbour Aero Club and other general aviation facilities will be involved in Stage 7 of the subdivision.

The DA is on public exhibition until August 7.



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