Airport expenditure should be put to better use

While regular flooding blocks roads, endangers lives and ruins businesses across the Central Coast, our Council wastes millions of rate payers’ dollars on temporary flood mitigation levee bank work at their Warnervale Airport.

The flood mitigation works’ sole purpose is to allow Council’s aircraft manufacturer proponents to lower their proposed hangar floor by 500mm. This levee work will become entirely redundant once the RMS raises Sparks Rd during its widening to four lanes. The Central Coast is about to become the best served region in Australia for air passenger services, with Newcastle Airport only 55 minutes up the road from Warnervale, and Sydney and Badgerys Creek soon to be at the end of an easy run down newly built motorways. Council is fully aware that its secret airport proposals are not viable, desirable or necessary, and yet they push on at great and unwarranted expense to the community and the environment.

The fully-developed, 70-year-old Illawarra Regional Airport, a passenger failure after Qantas pulled out in 2008, has only 60 to 80 jobs according to their Airport Manager. The Illawarra Airport, 100km south of Sydney with 1,819m and 1,331m runways, sitting on a site of over 200ha is the example by which to judge our Council’s $55m Warnervale Airport, which is being developed on an unsuitable 35ha site in accordance with a secret Master Plan. The fully-developed Illawarra Regional Airport had a corner store level income of $483,000 and a loss, after depreciation, in 2015-16. On the basis of these pathetic numbers, our Council’s airport spend this year is $6m on top of last years’ $6m and the $17m tied up in land purchased for their Kiar Airport in 2014, which remains unsold, costing $1m a year to hold. Central Coast Council cannot expect to achieve Illawarra’s 60 to 80 jobs, or an income of $483,000, as, unlike Illawarra Airport, which has no competition, Warnervale has Somersby, Belmont, Cessnock, Maitland and Newcastle airports to compete with.

Contrast the Illawarra numbers with those expected under the NSW Government’s Central Coast Regional Plan in which the Warnervale Airport site is proposed to become an industrial estate as part of the Wyong Employment Zone (WEZ) where it will provide 626 industrial/ commercial jobs and a capital gain to the ratepayers of $12.7m according to Council reports. Council enthusiastically promoted the industrialisation of the airport site until early 2015, when they requested $26m from the NSW Government to begin its industrial development, saying the industrialised airport site “will become the employment hub that kick starts the Wyong Employment Zone”.

In a complete about face, in August 2015, Wyong Council, under former Mayor, Mr Doug Eaton, rebuilt and lengthened the Warnervale Airport runway from 970m to 1,196m at a cost of $1.38m, triggering the curfew and aircraft movement provisions of the Warnervale Airport (Restrictions) Act 1996, an Act designed to protect the residents living around Warnervale Airport. Mr Eaton’s Council’s answer to the cynical triggering of the Act and the protective restrictions it contained, was to request the NSW government to repeal the Act. An independent review of the Act has subsequently been undertaken, in response to Council’s request, but after over a year of waiting, the outcome of the review and therefore the fate of this NSW Act of Parliament has not been announced by the State Government. No one has been able to fi nd out why the outcome of the independent review is being kept from the public. A mountain of evidence shows Warnervale Airport is not viable, desirable or necessary, and that the industrial development of the site is a $12.7m, 626 job winner, while the airport is a $55m, 60 job loser for the Central Coast. Despite the evidence, Council continues developing an unviable airport that diverts and wastes the funds for roads, footpaths, fl ood works, car parks and countless essential community projects throughout the Central Coast.

Email, Jul 14 Laurie Eyes, Wyong Creek