Renters on ‘tenderhooks’

IF GYMPIE region Deputy Mayor Larry Friske had an airport greeting this week for the council's aerodrome tenants, it might have been: "Welcome to Kybong, your karma is waiting".

Long term criticism of council airport management turned to praise this week as tenants faced an even more fearful alternative, management by someone else.

Mayor Mick Curran has said plans to hand management to a private operator on a 30-year lease would include protecting the interests of existing tenants.

The council was not "hell-bent on privatising," he said, but accepted criticism that it was "not that good" at airport management.

Disputes between tenants and the council, mostly about rents and infrastructure, have a long history.

"It's blackmail," one aircraft owner told The Gympie Times in 2010, accusing the council of abusing its monopoly power by increasing his annual rent to $3000.

Most renters were reportedly not happy with council-imposed increases of 5.5% for recreational users and 7% for commercial.

But that was then.

This week, Recreational Flying Company head of operations, Paul McKeown said privatisation had failed elsewhere and the airport was running well under council management.

His comments mirrored those of neighbouring business owner Hubo Hazleton of Hazelton Aero Paint, who said in July that private leasing would almost inevitably lead to rent increases that would drive businesses away.

Cr Friske was guarded in his "not my problem anymore" response and did not comment on a suggestion that it might be "too late to be nice now."

"(Council engineering director) Bob Fredman and I put in a lot of time over a lot of years trying to keep the peace down there and that's about all I'll be saying about that," he said.

"They've done nothing but whinge about the council for the past five years," one airport associate said this week.

"Make that 20 years," said another long-term observer of airport issues.

"And some of them have been on very cheap rent," he said, "for a long time."

Council documents confirm rents generally in the range of $2300 to $5258 for recreational aviation groups or $3757 to $11,166.83 for commercial tenants.

Tenders for management rights over the airport close on Tuesday.

The council's tender documents indicated the airport's future was still open and the tender process would allow it to make "an informed decision" on the proposed 30 years of privatisation.

Gympie Times


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