RATEPAYERS have rejected the notion that Armidale Regional Council is introducing landing fees at the airport in their name.
Council told The Leader the expected $40,000 in revenue, less than 10 per cent of what ratepayers subsidise, is a step towards a “fairer, user pays system to lessen the financial burden being placed on ratepayers”.
Armidale Ratepayers Association president Rob Taber said it’s a major issue if the fees drive business out of town.
“If we want facilities we have to be prepared to pay for it, it is a cost on ratepayers but that’s reasonably acceptable provided it doesn’t get out of hand,” he said.
“I believe it comes back to lack of finances and the answer is not putting the rates up, we’re rated out of existence now but it’s about being clever and finding a better way through these things.
“It’s definitely not worth it, we can’t afford to lose any businesses, we struggle to get any businesses here at the moment and it’s a disaster for the city.”
The proposed fees would cost operators $460 annually for each aircraft after the first five, that council offers exemptions to.
A number of aviation operators, including Fleet Helicopters, have threatened to take their business elsewhere if the fees are imposed.
Mr Taber applauded council on the industrial land development at the airport, and said it should focus on long term revenue raised by business rates.
Ratepayers fork out $500,000 to subsidise the airport every year, and now, local business Morelly has launched a petition to defer council’s vote on the landing fees.
Managing directors Sam Kelly and Duncan Moran started their business in Armidale two years ago because of the access to major cities through the airport.
“Our concern with the airport issue at the moment is the knock on impacts if vendors leave the airport, we see this having the potential to go back to the QantasLink monopoly which makes it unpalatable for us to stay here,” Mr Kelly said.
The pair want to take the petition to the July council meeting.
The Leader contacted ARC for comment but it did not respond.