The Border Watch : February 27th 2014
4 NEWS VISIT US ONLINE borderwatch.com.au Council breaks flight levy silence Statement provides community with ‘balanced understanding’ of facility From front page Mr Smart’s comments come as the regional carrier announces nearly a 60pc slump in profit before tax in the first half of the financial year. In a prepared statement, Mr Smart said the community needed to be more informed and have a balanced understanding of the facility following Rex’s comments earlier this week. “The airport is an awardwinning facility that the Grant District Council is proud to own and operate,” Mr Smart said. “It is highly regarded in the airport industry of Australia and the council is keen to see the success of any air service for Mount Gambier.” Mr Smart said the facility’s management committee - which had a voting member from Rex - was positive about the future of aviation in Mount Gambier. “We look forward to the continuation of existing relationships and the development of new partnerships that will benefit the regional community of the Limestone Coast,” he said. Mr Smart said the airport was fully self-funded. “It does not receive funds from council general revenue and it does not contribute funds to council’s general revenue,” he said. He said all of the airport’s maintenance, utilities, terminal and development costs came from income generated at the airport. “The primary income for the airport is in the form of a passenger levy,” the council leader said. He said the levy was “about average” for South Australian airports served by a major regional airline. “In 2010, the Mount Gambier Airport Management Committee voted to increase the adult passenger levy from $6.50 excluding GST to the current amount - an increase of $3,” Mr Smart said. He said the passenger levy generated nearly $800,000 in 2012/13. “The budget covers everything from toilet paper to replacement windsocks, linemarking to grounds care and of course covers the significant items such as electricity,” Mr Smart said. “It also finances a number of not so obvious costs relating to security and safety that are a mandatory component of having airline aircraft of more than 30 seats.” He said a surplus of $267,394 was placed into a reserve fund last financial year. “This fund allows significant infrastructure upgrades and improvement without burdening council ratepayers or placing the airport into debt,” Mr Smart said. “The capital works that have drawn on reserve funding have totalled more than $4m over the last five years.” He said these included resurfacing the main runway, taxiway and apron, along with replacement lighting after only minor works since the 1960s. Mr Smart said this had renewed the life of the vital infrastructure. “The runway strengthening now allows access to large corporate jets which bring investment and development to the region,” he said. “The runway lighting upgrade reduces fog-related delays assisting regional airlines in getting their aircraft away on time, avoiding network delays and saving them money.” He said further works were planned to provide better facilities for the airline and its passengers. “It is important to remember this is a community asset and not for the exclusive use of any single airline,” Mr Smart said. “Fire protection, freight, aeromedical and general aviation have a strong interest in the Mount Gambier Airport, utilising it daily whilst contributing to the operating expense. “Unlike airlines, who seek to achieve a substantial return on the value of their assets and shareholder funds, councils do not get a return on the capital value of their assets.” FREE TICKETS ONE OF FOUR 01/03/2014 Send in or drop off your entry to Fork & Cork Competition at The Border Watch 81 Commercial Street East Mount Gambier Name: Business Hours Contact Number: Entries close 5pm Thursday February 27th JOINT OPERATION: About two-dozen emergency service workers and hospital staff worked together to transfer a patient from the Mount Gambier hospital yesterday. Rescue helicopter makes one-off patient transfer DANIELLE GRINDLAY A HELICOPTER made a rare touchdown at the Mount Gambier Hospital yesterday afternoon in a one-off operation to transport a special needs patient to Adelaide. A crew of about two-dozen people from South Australia Ambulance Service (SAAS), Metropolitan Fire Service and the State Emergency Service (SES) assisted hospital staff in preparation for take off. Patients are usually driven to the Mount Gambier Airport for a flight transfer. “We can’t utilise the Royal Flying Doctor Service due to some special needs the patient has,” SAAS operations manager Andrew Thomas said yesterday. “It’s our responsibility to move patients across the state and in this case the Rescue 51 helicopter was the best choice, taking into account all those needs of the patient.” SES and fire crews assisted with setting up a temporary landing site and loading the patient into the helicopter. “People don’t often know that these resources and services are here and the manpower involved,” Mr Thomas said. “It shows the good working relationship we share with other services - we all link in together.” A crew of four, including pilot Craig Knott, made the four-hour return trip to Adelaide. This week’s specials... 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