Tenterfield Shire Council has guaranteed the local airstrip will remain an airstrip, as they put the management of the local asset up for an Expression of Interest, and a local not-for-profit puts their hand up to take it over.
Previously, the Tenterfield airstrip was up for sale, however, Tenterfield Shire Council rejected the two proposals and recognised the community wasn’t in favour of sale.
“We had put the airstrip out for tender in the hope that someone could provide more for the airstrip than Tenterfield Shire Council had capacity to do,” said Bronwyn Petrie, Mayor of Tenterfield Shire Council.
“However, neither tender met the recommendations and so we didn’t proceed with the sale.”
“We are now going to go out with Expression of Interest to lease the airstrip.”
Currently, the maintenance and upkeep cost of the facility is coming from ratepayers and drawing in no return for its use, which is no longer sustainable for Council to wear. However, it is hoped a suitable lease can be negotiated.
“Councillors have always had the intention that the airstrip remains an airstrip,” Mayor Petrie said.
“The airstrip is important and has huge potential for medical, firefighting, tourism, industry, and sport aviation.”
Local supporter group, Friends of Tenterfield Aerodrome (FOTA), formed last year as an incorporated not-for-profit organisation, with the sole intention being for the town to retain the community asset.
“We are now in a position where we can put in an Expression of Interest to operate it and take over that expense from council,” said Robert Evans, President of FOTA.
As a not-for-profit association, FOTA will be seeking grants, donations, and fundraising opportunities to manage the airstrip if they are found successful.
“The airport costs approximately $36,000 a year.”
“We are expecting that it will cost at least that to run and maintain to a good standard.”
“At the moment it is rundown from years of low maintenance – Council did their best to keep it operational.”
The airstrip has proven itself to be a valuable community lifeline and a busy hub with potential.
“The airstrip is used for aerial agriculture, tourism, there are a number of people who have business interests here and elsewhere.”
“There is an ongoing steady stream of aircraft coming and going, but the real value in the airstrip for our community is a disaster readiness hub,” Mr Evans said.
Sitting at Tenterfield Airstrip right now is a Fire Boss water bomber ready for a quick response to a fire, which would not be possible without the airstrip.
“There was a fire on Australia Day this year that was threatening a house in Tenterfield and was going to get away in the national park, and Peter Johns, the pilot of the fire boss, was able to get there quickly and assist the guys on the ground to put the fire out.”
And there are bigger plans in the pipeline, with FOTA already thinking of their next move.
“We want to look at how we can get funding to seal the airstrip so that is can really become an asset from an aero medical perspective.”
Tenterfield Shire Council intends to have a decision for the leasing of the airstrip by the end of this financial year, June 2023.
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