Coffs Harbour Regional Airport is the second-busiest regional airport in NSW.
Coffs Harbour Regional Airport is the second-busiest regional airport in NSW. Trevor Veale

Airport management on the table

FUTURE management of Coffs Harbour Airport is on the agenda at Thursday's Coffs Harbour City Council meeting.

There is widespread interest from investors in long-term leasing of infrastructure assets like airports and ports.

Director of Business Services Andrew Beswick is recommending councillors authorise the general manager to call tenders for a scoping study to guide consideration of future management options.

A full scoping study is estimated to cost about $100,000 and take four to six months to complete.

Now the second-busiest regional airport in NSW, Coffs Harbour Airport processed 376,700 passengers and generated $5.52million in revenue in 2013/14.

There was also infrastructure investment of $12.1million in asset renewal and car parking during the same year.

Airport management has proved locally contentious over many years.

Issues that have raised questions have included tenders for advertising at the airport and security car parking; use of airport lands for other purposes; and the treatment of airport lands in the light of reports showing some of these areas are likely to be subject to the threat of flooding in the future.

There is also concern the council, as Coffs Harbour Regional Airport, is lodging a development application with itself for development of 55ha of airport land north of the runways.

In 2013 the council considered three different models for airport management: as a council business unit; a management contract and a private sector concession model (public/private partnership).

At present Coffs Harbour Airport operates under a mixed model, with a management contract for the airport manager and the operations undertaken through a council business unit.

Leasing airports can be a profitable business.

Sydney's Kingsford Smith Airport is managed by Sydney Airport Corporation Limited, which was sold by the Australian Government to a subsidiary of Macquarie Bank in 2002.

SACL has a 99-year management ease over the airport, which is on Crown land at Mascot.

Macquarie Bank has been accused of price gouging and abuse of its monopoly power over the prices it charges for airport parking and other services and over its development plans for the Sydney airport and lack of oversight by local councils.



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