THE days of passengers parking for free in the cramped main car park of Tamworth airport could be coming to an end.
Tamworth Regional Council (TRC) is considering introducing paid parking as part of a $900,000 plan to ease congestion around the terminal.
Airport users have become increasingly frustrated at the lack of parking spots available in the car park during peak arrival and departure times.
The bottlenecks regularly cause desperate drivers to double-park or seek out a spot in the car park of the Tamworth Aero Club.
Councillor Warren Woodley, who raised the issue of congestion at the last council meeting, said a user-pays system was inevitable.
“We’re going to extend the parking area and we’ll probably put some meters in ,” he said.
“The problem is that the parking area has really been taken over by people in the mining industry who leave their cars there for one, two, three, four or more days.
“They just park their cars and rack off, and that’s fine because the council is very happy to have them here because it’s good for Tamworth.”
Cr Woodley said chronic congestion at the airport was a sign of Tamworth’s growing status as a regional hub servicing the North West.
He said that with the local mining industry booming and the lack of commercial flights into Gunnedah and Narrabri, there was greater demand on the Tamworth facility.
“I don’t think we’ve got any alternative,” he said.
“I don’t particularly want to charge people because we’ve never charged there, but (free parking) is coming to an end.
“It’s been a generous gift to the people who’ve parked there for many, many years, but we’ve got to the point where we’ve got to put more parks in and that costs money.”
TRC business and events director John Sommerlad told last week’s council meeting that plans were well-advanced on the $900,000 project.