‘Fight or flight’

A local council’s sustainability could be at risk without financial assistance, according to its Mayor.

Grant District Mayor Richard Sage expressed his concern while tabling a motion at council’s recent ordinary meeting.

His concern was in response to a report by the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) in relation to dedicated funding needed to sustain regional airports.

Mayor Sage tabled a motion that he and chief executive Darryl Whicker advocate with federal and state politicians to ensure council is at the forefront with the need for financial assistance and long-term funding for the council-owned Mount Gambier Airport.

As part of the motion Mayor Sage said advocating would need to be carried out heading into the Federal Election and continue after the election.

“Given that we have sustained a $300,000 loss last year and are predicting a $600,000 loss this year in maintaining the running of our airport,” he said.

“Council needs to consider how best we approach this considering the alarming number of airports outside urban centres operate at a loss or at best break-even point.

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“Our council sustainability could be at risk without assistance,” Mayor Sage said.

However, an amendment was made to the original motion due to a discrepancy raised by Councillor Gillian Clayfield.

This came following a question posed by Cr Megan Dukalskis to the Mayor.

“How did you anticipate you were going to advocate as the Mayor?” Cr Dukalskis said.

In response Mayor Sage said he would discuss the issue face-to-face with Ministers.

“We would do it the usual way, put our case forward and work with our local member of parliament,” he said.

Cr Clayfield questioned a previous resolution which stripped the Mayor of his speaking rights.

“My question is why do you have Mayor and chief executive in your motion when there is a standing motion that council had voted on that you will not be the spokesman for the council?” Cr Clayfield said.

“It’s a resolution you have ignored.”

Mayor Sage expressed his disappointment that council moved the resolution taking away his speaking rights.

“That is my motion and I am the Mayor until the next election. I am still an elected member. And I have got the right to represent myself at public gatherings,” he said.

An amendment was made to the motion which included removing the word Mayor, leaving the chief executive as the sole representative.

The amendment became the motion and was moved by Cr Clayfield, seconded by Cr Kylie Boston with the remaining councillors unanimously voting in favour.

Meanwhile, Mayor Sage supplied an online link to the ALGA website and news titled “dedicated funding needed to sustain regional airports” for more information.

A federal parliamentary inquiry has recommended setting up a regional aerodrome infrastructure fund accessible to owner operators.

The interim report into Australia’s general aviation industry said the ongoing financial viability and adequacy of airport infrastructure in rural and regional communities was a clear issue with significant financial pressure being placed on local councils.

“It is alarming that most airports outside of major urban centres often operate at loss or, at best, break even,” the report said.

“It is imperative the Australian Government continue to provide local governments with access to financial support that ensures airports in rural and regional communities remain operational and that airport infrastructure meets CASA and air safety requirements.

“The Department of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development just work with local governments to determine how best to support and ensure the ongoing operations of airports in rural and regional communities.”

The Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee report recommended establishing a legislative framework and associated guidelines for an infrastructure fund “as a matter of priority”.

“The fund should be accessible to operators of regional and remote aerodromes and should be provided with ongoing and long-term funding,” the committee said.

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