Council revises airport budget

Fall out from the war on terror has forced Ballina Shire Council to increase its draft 2008/09 Ballina Airport budget by 20 per cent.

Council had allocated $2 million towards the operation of the airport but an increase in the cost of some works required under air safety regulations has resulted in the budget being increased to $2.5m.

This includes $1,716,840 for the expansion of the terminal, and an estimated $630,000 for the provision of new checked-baggage screening and handling systems.

A grant of $300,000 from the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government for an X-ray machine capable of detecting explosive residues has left Council to find $330,000 to complete the purchase.

Other ongoing costs, including the upgrading of the electricity supply, the installation of a larger emergency power generator, and maintenance of the runway, have further increased the budget.

When Cr Margaret Howes expressed concerns about the present state of the tarmac and lighting, Civil Services Group manager John Truman pointed out that while the tarmac was nearing its renewal stage, the maintenance would allow its refurbishment to be delayed until the 2011/12 budget.

Cr Howes then asked what was being done to get surrounding local government areas to acknowledge the benefit they gained from access to the airport.

Many people choose to use Ballina Airport because its far easier to get in and out of than the Gold Coast, Cr Howes said. Byron Bay must be delighted with the way we provide a charity for them.

Cr Keith Johnson said while long-term projections indicated fiscal tightness, he would like to see the airport remain in business in its own right.

Its not costing ratepayers money at the moment, but the additional security requirements have to be addressed, Cr Johnson said. I would not like to see airport money come out of general funds.

But without the new bag-screening procedure in place by December 1 this year, commercial jet aircraft will not be able to use the facility.

Council voted unanimously to amend the budget.

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