Council cops flak for Fly In cancellation

Happier times: Great Eastern Fly In co-ordinator Gai Taylor after enjoying a flight in Ed Fields World War II era Mustang at last years event. The Great Eastern Fly In has been cancelled.

Organisers of the Evans Head Great Eastern Fly In say they have been forced to cancel this years event because Richmond Valley Council is making it too hard by imposing fees and charges and forcing pilots to camp on a wasteland.

Co-ordinator Gai Taylor said the New Years event attracted 150 planes last year and an estimated 4000 people. She said she was deeply disappointed it had been called off.

Were all volunteers and we dont make any money. Were not playing grand-standing games, she said. Its just too bloody hard to keep bashing our heads against a brick wall.

She said Councils rationale behind charging $100 per plane in landing fees and $310 for vintage planes was that the fees and charges were in the Councils plan of management.

However, that was also the case last year, and no fees were imposed.

No-one will come, she said. No one will pay $100 for the day, let alone $310 for the warbirds. It already costs those people a bomb to bring those planes. Some of them go through 300 litres of fuel an hour. Nobody who does joy flights in a warbird makes money. They just cover their costs.

To add to her frustration Council expected the Great Eastern Fly In to collect all the money on their behalf in addition to paying $400 per day to hire the aerodrome.

She said no other Fly In event in Australia was charged by their local councils in this way, and in fact they usually provided free services like garbage removal.

The poor condition of the camping area was an equal reason for pulling the plug on the event, she said.

In previous years pilots had either camped under the wings of their planes for security reasons or very close by under small bushy trees. This year she said Council expected them to camp on a cleared patch of land near the industrial estate, 100m away from the planes and with no shade. They would also have to pay $30 per night.

Pilots would take one look at it and get into their planes and go, she said. Theres no way I would camp there. Theres bits of pipes and broken brick and if theres any wind there will be sand blowing about.

Richmond Valley Council general manager Brian Wilkinson said he was very disappointed the Great Eastern Fly In had made its decision without discussing it with Council.

He said Council wanted to take a co-operative approach and work with the event.

After being told of the fees and charges, Council had invited organisers to put in a submission on the matter. This was to be included in a report to Council at its September meeting. He said one possible way forward was for Council to cover the fees and charges in the hope that in time the event could pay for them itself.

Gai said with no consistent Council policy or support for the Fly In there was just too much uncertainty so close to the event.

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