The Armidale Regional Council is once again back in the aviation industry headlines – for all the wrong reasons – with news that it is demanding a 462% leasehold rental increase from the local Aero Club. The club has scheduled a crisis meeting for Tuesday 10th March, inviting the council CEO and Mayor to comment.
Armidale Aero Club President, Mr John McFarlane.; “Our members are seeking an opportunity to obtain an explanation and full disclosure as to how and why council’s executive committee arrived at its recent decision to increase the club’s annual rent by 462%, and why council’s executive committee are considering a potential further 100% increase after the currently proposed lease would expire in 2022.
“We’re seeking: 1. Council’s decision in relation to the increased rent be rescinded forthwith; 2. that council recognise the not-for-profit status of the club and its relationship, and substantial contributions to the community over the last 75 years; and 3. that the council agree to return to leasing arrangements in accordance with the terms and conditions of the lease executed in 2018 with rent adjusted by CPI for a period of not less than a further 5 years,” he said.
AOPA Australia CEO, Benjamin Morgan, has been invited to participate as part of the 10th March meeting;
“AOPA Australia stands firmly with the Armidale Aero Club and its members in calling on the council to withdraw the demand for a 462% increase in leasehold rental. I will be in attendance on the 10th March, seeking answers,” he says.
“The aero club is valuable to the community and provides interested persons with access to sport, recreational and private aviation. It’s a gateway to encouraging greater participation at the airport.
“The club is no different from local sporting clubs and other special interest community groups and should be afforded fair and equitable access.
“It’s been reported that Armidale Regional Council has received $3.5 million to refurbish Armidale’s airport terminal; $1 million for its nearby highway roundabout; $2 million for a new aircraft instrument landing system at Tamworth; and $4.5 million to build a five-way roundabout outside the airport’s entrance… yet how is our small to medium-sized aviation industry benefiting from these infrastructure investments?
“The Australian people are providing this funding and it is supposed to be used to help benefit those who need access to airports. And, the last time I checked aircraft owners, pilots and general aviation businesses fall into that category.
“That’s over $11 million of free money from the Australian tax-payer, and instead of improving access, we see a council gouging a community not-for-profit aero club with a 462% increase in rent?
“Enough is enough…
“Maybe it’s time for a major re-think on federal and state government airport infrastructure grants, to clearly identify the benefits to both the aviation and broader community for this investment,” he said.