Regional airports face upgrade viability challenges

By Paul Hemsley

South Australian regional airports have been recommended to upgrade their facilities in strategies to secure long term viability.

Due to security requirements and associated costs as well as facility usage by larger aircraft, the Local Government Association of South Australia (LGASA) commissioned a review to help the airports become more sustainable and cost effective.

Strategic management consulting firm, Hudson Howells conducted the report, which recommended a local government regional airport management entity be established, as well as consideration of commercialization, strategy and business case preparation, state-wide funding applications and industry trend research.

According to the report, one option for councils would be to commercialise operations either by sale of airports or private sector partnerships for management and funding of ongoing operations.

LGASA president, Kym McHugh said the association is looking at all options, which will depend on individual councils and how they want to see their airports managed into the future.

“There’s been some interest shown by Adelaide Airport to maybe manage or even own some of the regional airports; that’s just one option that councils can consider,” Mr McHugh said.

According to Mr McHugh, the Commonwealth has yet to announce specific requirements of proposed airport security upgrades and possible funding assistance for councils that own airports.

“The report itself only touches on the proposed security upgrades for regional airports and we will have to wait to hear from the government about final proposals,” Mr McHugh said.

He said the LGASA was recommended to lobby state and federal governments on behalf of councils and airports for funding.

“It is important to note that in any funding request made to the Commonwealth or state would be supported by an investment from local government,” he said.

The establishment of a regional airport fund, as exists in other states, is also one of the recommendations.

“All these and other possibilities will be canvassed as we digest and discuss the implications of the report; this is not an issue that will be fixed overnight.

“The report establishes a blueprint to guide the sustainable management of airports under council control and a lot of work has still to be done,” Mr McHugh said.

According to Mr McHugh, the LGA will now work with the South Australian Regional Organisation of Councils (SAROC) to consult further with councils that own airports, where results of these further discussions will guide the LGASA’s future actions.

“After receiving the report on Friday, councils will now have to digest the contents of the report and the various recommendations,” Mr McHugh said.

He said there will be further detailed discussion on the financial implications of the recommendations contained within the report.

This will be “coupled with likely airport upgrades to accommodate larger passenger aircraft which the industry is tending towards and the implications of security upgrades, when we have these details”.

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