Council pushes forward with long-term airport lease
THE proposed long-term lease of the airport and Enterprise Park development to a private company has now progressed to the next stage, with councillors voting to officially enter into negotiations.
At Thursday's Coffs Harbour City Council meeting, the crucial decision was made to push ahead following a confidential debate.
Councillors voted to adopt a motion put on the table from Cr George Cecato which stated that the council not only progress the lease, but also enforce that the income would not go towards funding the divisive Cultural and Civic Space Project.
Before entering into the confidential session, Cr Cecato told councillors that progressing ahead would be vital for council to mitigate the losses caused by COVID-19.
He said the experience and funding offered by a private lessee would enable more significant growth for the airport and Enterprise Park than the council would be able to achieve on its own.
"A few months ago, in a blink of an eye, the world changed. How long until recovery? No one can answer," Cr Cecato said.
"With the seriously reduced number of passengers on flights, two sources of income - landing fees and passenger fees - are greatly reduced.
"If we appoint a lessee they will do whatever it takes to grow the airport."
Cr Cecato trod carefully to avoid revealing confidential information, but stated that during the tender for bindings bids the council had received a "very, very low" number of applicants.
A council report stated that the tender had been complicated by COVID-19, the demise of Tigerair and Virgin Australia entering into voluntary administration.
Councillors had voted to put the call out for bindings bids in November 2019, but the tender wasn't released until June 12 this year. It closed on July 17.
"The airport is not only one of our largest assets, but it is also vital to our growth. Please make sure we take it to the next level," Cr Cecato said.
The debate went into a confidentiality at the request of Cr Keith Rhoades, who stated he had information relating to commercial matters that he wanted to "put on the table."
He said the information would potentially make a difference to how councillors would vote.
Many details including who the binding bidders are, and how long the lease will be for, currently remains confidential.
A report on the outcome of the negotiations stage will now be brought back to the council for consideration in about 4-6 weeks.
If the lease process runs smoothly, it would be executed by October 20 according to the indicative timing established by the council's independent expert advisers KPMG Australia.