NEXT month preliminary work on the Scone airport will begin and at $23.5 million will be the most expensive capital works program ever undertaken by the Upper Hunter Shire Council.
At a community meeting at the Scone Aero Club on Friday, Council said they had to make the decision to close the airport permanently or make the investment to keep the airport operational, due to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) changing regulations for airports.
To date the project has received $6.2 million from the government for the Warbird Museum and a $6.5 million government grant from the drought stimulus fund, with ratepayers to cover the remaining $10.8 million.
Council are anticipating 1,000 tourists visiting the airport each week for the airport to be sustainable and to inject significant benefits for the local economy.
There are currently no plans for a general passenger carrier to operate from the Scone airport; only private charters are available.
The Council warned if the investment was not made now the airport would face closure due to new CASA regulations, 80 people would lose their jobs and emergency services would no longer be able to use the airport.
However, Daryl Dutton, resident and former general manager of Council raised concerns about the business case supporting the airport upgrades, questioning if 1,000 visitors each week was realistic and what the financial costs to ratepayers would be ongoing if the projections were not realised.
Steve McDonald, general manager of UHSC said they were confident the figures were realistic and had been reviewed by “companies that specialise in this and how to attract people” including Destination NSW and had been reviewed by the Office of Local Government.
David Gatwood, manager of business services for the UHSC was even more optimistic saying that since Temora generated up to 65,000 visitors each year and since Scone’s facility would be better, the local airport would attract even more people.
Other community attendees, which including adjoining residents and current airport users, said they had not been consulted on the development, but were assured by Council staff that at the appropriate time they would be and any issues they may have would be addressed.
The project will include:
- A warbird information centre complete with 15 planes on display at any given time, a function centre on the upper level and on the lower level offices and a cafe;
- A public car park to accommodate 70 vehicles;
- Parking for coaches and motor homes;
- Commercial and recreational aircraft hangers to attract aviation businesses;
- A new workshop and storage shed;
- Wildlife fencing around the boundary of the airport;
- Reconstructing the runway;
- New storm water drainage;
- Central helipads;
- A full length parallel taxiway;
- Taxiways and taxi lanes to hangers and parking areas;
- A light aircraft parking area;
- Construction of expanded apron and
- Relocating the automated weather information system and Bureau of Meteorology infrastructure.
Council aim to have the project complete for the Warbirds display in September next year.
Related stories: Scone Airport Development.