January 2018 marked a big start to the year with AOPA Australia partnering up with the Wagga City Aero Club to tackle unfair and discriminatory airport charges in the Riverina. Both organisations worked tirelessly to build a powerful media campaign that highlighted how private aircraft owners and pilots were being discriminated by the Council.
Wagga City Aero Club President, Mr Geoff Breust, and his members and local general aviation industry supporters put in an incredible effort, building media awareness and momentum on the issue.
At any time of the year Australians are encouraged (via local and state funded marketing initiatives) to drive into the Riverina to enjoy Council’s managed public parks, public spaces, art projects, camping grounds along with lakes and rivers – all of which are free to use. The regions public facilities cost the City of Wagga millions maintain, and each play an invaluable role in helping attract the 1.3 million tourists and visitors who invest some $340 million locally and keeping some 35,000-people employed.
The AOPA Australia and the Wagga City Aero Club highlighted that local and visiting boat owners are not required to pay any landing charges at ramps nor are they required to pay parking fees for their vehicles and trailers. Nor are Caravan owners required to pay landing fees or parking charges at council owned and managed camping sites.
Central to the argument was the clear fact that should a tourist or visitor choose to fly their private general aviation aircraft to Wagga Wagga, they are required to pay landing fees and parking charges – simply because they used a runway not a highway.
On Monday, 22nd January, both associations, along with 30 local pilots and general aviation supporters attended a meeting of the City of Wagga Wagga Council, and presented our case. During the meeting a number of councillors spoke in strong support of our argument and agreed that Council’s attitude towards charging aircraft owners and pilots was unfair and out of step with Council’s general policies with respect to attracting tourists and visitors to the city.
A resolution was put forward to council to remove the discriminatory parking charges, along with re-establishing the airport community stakeholder committee, which is be directed to undertake a review of airport operations and management. The resolution was unanimously agreed to, marking a major victory for AOPA Australia and the Wagga City Aero Club.