Kate Dallimore returns to find her car window smashed and her stereo stolen.
Kate Dallimore returns to find her car window smashed and her stereo stolen.

Vandals smash 50 cars at airport

HOW many smashed windows does it take to get better security at Coffs Harbour Regional Airport?

That is the question that the Coffs Harbour Airport Car Rental Association and private car owners want answered.

But the manager of Coffs Harbour Regional Airport, Bevan Edwards, while agreeing vandalism there was becoming more frequent, said the airport car park had more protection than other public car parks in the city.

He said plenty of secure parking was available at the airport, albeit at a cost.

A window-smashing spree in the airport car park on Friday night saw the windows of about 50 private and rental cars smashed and left a trail of damage estimated at close to $20,000.

But the worst aspect of the vandal attack, which hit Thrifty, Coffs Car Rentals and Budget rental vehicles, as well as more than a dozen private cars, was that it was by no means an isolated incident.

George Cecato owns the Thrifty rental car franchise in Coffs Harbour and is also the Chairman of the Coffs Harbour Airport Car Rental Association, which represents the interests of rental car companies using the airport.

He says rental car firms take hits at the car park almost every second weekend, either with fuel siphoned out of cars or windows smashed and his members are fed up.

"We need to protect not only our vehicles but the vehicles of members of the public using the open car park," Mr Cecato said.

"The amount of vandalism there is horrible ? it goes on and on and we are powerless to do anything about it."

His members want more lighting and cameras at the entry and exit points as well as on the awning of the airport building.

Mr Cecato said he was not privy to the security arrangements currently in place at the airport, which is controlled by Coffs Harbour City Council.

He said his Association had asked council 18 months ago for security cameras in the car park and had received advice from council's airport manager Bevan Edwards saying that the council would have to look into contractual arrangements and get back to the Association.

Mr Cecato said they had heard nothing further.

Mr Edwards said yesterday that the city's rental companies each paid to have four spaces reserved for them in the airport's car park, but the rest was for the public and if rental companies were fearful, they could pay to put their cars in the compound provided for rental cars behind the Airport Security Carpark.

He said the council paid a security firm to patrol the airport at night and had additional security for aircraft which he was not at liberty to discuss.

He said council was considering the request for security cameras in the car park to supplement the cameras in the terminal 'in conjunction with a couple of other options', but essentially people parked there at their own risk.

He said the Airport Security Carpark, which is privately owned and operated, was reasonably priced and was the best example of a security car park in regional Australia and the council had a contractual arrangement with the owner, which had been undertaken as part of the establishment of the security car park.

The owner of Airport Security Carpark, Tom Murray-Prior said he charged $12.50 per 24 hours per car and every seventh day was free.

He said he had been told he was providing the cheapest security car parking in Australia.

Mr Murray-Prior said he had undertaken three years of negotiation with Coffs Harbour City Council to come to a contractual arrangement which protected his investment of just under $1.5 million and would not have built the facility without such protection.

Late yesterday irate owners were still contacting Coffs Harbour Police as they flew home after the weekend only to find their car's windows smashed.

Shane Corby said yesterday he was 'having a terrible day' as he juggled repair work flow for eight of the cars with their windscreens and side windows smashed at the airport over the weekend.

The manager of O'Brien Windscreens and Automotive Glass in Coffs Harbour, Mr Corby said even though it was good for business, he felt sorry for the people this had happened to because of the inconvenience and insurance cost as well as the repair bill.

He said most side windows cost $300 or more to replace and many windscreens cost considerably more.

For one unlucky customer, overseas for a few days with the keys of his car in his luggage, tape and plastic weatherproofing was all that could be done as the car had to wait towing.

The $600 side window of a late-model Thrifty rental utility was one of those broken during Friday night's window-smashing spree.

"The car was returned by the customer after hours and it remains at his risk until we have a chance to check it in,so theoretically he is liable," Thrifty franchisee George Cecato said.

"We are not going to charge him, but this is not the first time this has happened so (the vandalism) is creating a Pandora's Box for renters.

"Once a window on a rental car has been smashed it is out of action - you can't rent it until it has been repaired, as you lose the money you would have received from the rental as well as paying for the repair."

A Coffs Harbour resident who arrived at the airport at 8.30am on Saturday to pick up visitors said he moved his car after realising he was parked among more than 20 vehicles with smashed windows ? and noticing piles of glass where other cars had already been driven away.

He said the sight was quite unsettling.

"This is definitely not a good look for Coffs Harbour," said the man, who did not want to be named.

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