Inquiry into air debacle

A STATE inquiry into regional air services couldn’t have come at a better time for local communities plagued by flight cancellations and delays.

Moree Plains Shire Council mayor Katrina Humphries yesterday welcomed the news the upper house committee on state development would look into a number of matters associated with the provision of regular passenger flights for regional centres.

“I welcome it because there was a lot of issues with a lot of airlines in regional areas ... not just our region,” she said.

She would even like to see the inquiry broadened to encompass public transport issues as a whole for rural and regional NSW.

Frustration levels in Moree, Narrabri and Tamworth are high at present as Brindabella Airlines battles to get its service back on track after the recent grounding of four planes over maintenance issues.

Complaints from tablelands passengers over significant delays with Armidale Airport’s QantasLink service to Sydney prompted a speech by member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall to state parliament.

Last month he called for an inquiry into air services, saying he would ask the State and Regional Development Committee, of which he is deputy chairman, to pursue the issue.

Yesterday he said he was delighted the inquiry had been established, even if his committee wasn’t involved due to an already-tight schedule.

“Quality air services are critical to the development and growth of rural communities and we need to ensure that everything is being done to maintain, expand and increase competition and service levels,” he said.

The committee will meet tomorrow to set a timetable for the inquiry, including the taking of public submissions.

Mr Marshall said committee chairman Rick Colless was well aware of the issues with flight services in the New England, North West.

It’s believed the inquiry will include the cost of access to airports, including Sydney; financial management and viability matters impacting on operators; the economic impact on communities; and the potential for development of regional aviation services.

Cr Humphries would also like the committee to look at the tender process for regional air routes, saying Transport for NSW had “a lot to answer for” in relation to the Brindabella contract for Moree.

“Their version of ‘due diligence’ and mine are a world apart,” she said.

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