Airport users slam proposed charges

AN angry response from Orange Airport users has forced Orange City Council to rethink proposed airport fees and higher hangar rental rates.

Council spokesman Allan Reeder said council agreed at last Tuesday’s council meeting to “have a second look” at the proposed changes.

The decision to delay any increase comes after council received almost a dozen submission letters opposing the move.

“It was good to see constructive feedback from many businesses and light plane owners that came in as part of the discussion of the draft budget,” Mr Reeder said.

“They’ve raised some important points about the level of charges, but also the about way the fees are levied.

“This week’s meeting decided to conduct a review of all charges at the airport. We’ll get some expert advice and look at how other airports share their operating costs.”

In the meantime, all fees and charges will remain unchanged, Mr Reeder said.

According to council, any aircraft over 2000 kilograms is charged $11.30 per tonne to land at Orange airport.

Any plane that weighs less than 2000 kilograms is not charged, however, the new proposal would impose a small fee, which is yet to be determined.

The proposal comes as council looks at ways of raising some of the $18.9 million needed for upgrades later this year.

“That will deliver a much higher level of service to people who use the airport,” Mr Reeder said.

“While the upgrade is being paid for by the city council along with state and federal governments and Cadia Valley Operations, the council believes it’s fair that direct users of the airport also make a contribution which reflects the new higher level of service.”

However, Bruce Whiley of Orange Aero Engineering, slammed the proposed increases in a statement  to council.

“Since our company began operating we have invested approximately $800,000, mainly as a facility on the airport,” he said in the statement.

“Having grown quite rapidly, even though we are financially viable, any further increased charges will certainly have a detrimental effect on our ability to operate and employ more staff. A large percentage of the customers and the work we carry out is in the light aircraft sector. 

“Many of these aircraft are owned by people whom aviation is a hobby and luxury to them.

“This sector is very price sensitive. Increased costs at Orange Airport will reduce activity and growth.”

Mr Whiley said an option to raise more funds was to keep charges as cheap as possible and make more hangars available,  which would ensure more tenants and more rent for council to collect.

He estimates council charges his business $5000 per annum just to have a hangar at the airport with no other assistance. 

Light plans, Mr Whiley said, were charged up to $3000.

Mr Reeder said council hoped to make a decision on the proposed changes in the next three months.

luke.schuyler@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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