City Council backs airport overhaul

FUNDING BOOST: Mayor Andrew Lee has thrown his support behind Grant District Council’s redevelopment plan for the Mount Gambier Airport. “Our community will benefit from this upgrade – there is no doubt about that,” he said at a special meeting of council on Tuesday night. Mount Gambier City Council will commit $500,000 to the infrastructure upgrade if a revised application for federal funding is successful. Picture: BRITTANY DENTON

MOUNT Gambier City Council will commit $500,000 to the redevelopment of Mount Gambier Airport if Grant District Council’s revised application for federal funding is successful.

A special meeting of council was held on Tuesday night to determine the city’s funding contribution towards the proposed $9.2m infrastructure upgrade.

The redevelopment plan includes a significant terminal upgrade, a lengthened runway, extended heavy aircraft apron and lighting upgrades to “future proof” the facility.

The project is considered the region’s highest infrastructure priority and has been in a state of limbo since it failed to attract federal funding in round one of the Federal Government’s Building Better Regions Fund in August.

“It was stressed by Grant District Council chief executive Trevor Smart that the application is not relying on financial support from this council,” Mayor Andrew Lee said in a statement to elected members before discussion began.

“However, if our contribution assists in a successful grant application, our community will benefit – there is no doubt about that.

“Our council has a strong focus on tourism and economic development and I do believe an improved airport facility and service is vital for Mount Gambier on both of those fronts.”

While Grant Council made no formal request for funding, Mr Smart proposed a $330,000 contribution from City Council and Wattle Range Council to demonstrate regional support for the project – accounting for approximately 3.6pc of the overall cost.

“This is a really significant project and it strikes me we should contribute at least $330,000 – if not more,” Mount Gambier Councillor Sonya Mezinec said.

“Anything we contribute should reduce the $3.68m amount requested by the Federal Government.”

Her sentiments were echoed by Councillor Ian Von Stanke.

“Honestly I think our community uses the airport more than residents of other council areas,” Cr Von Stanke said.

“If we put in $500,000 that will knock the percentage they are asking the Feds for down from 40pc to 35pc, which looks better on the application.”

Cr Steve Perryman said local government partnerships would be vital to the success of the funding application.

“I know Grant Council has said regardless of whether they have contributions from other councils or not they are going to lodge the application,” Cr Perryman said.

“Our local federal member has stressed the cash contributions from other local government partners is very important – almost to the extent that if it’s not there it wouldn’t be worth applying.”

Mount Gambier City Council unanimously voted in favour of a motion to commit $500,000 to the project across its 2018/19 and 2019/20 budgets.

Elected members resolved the funding should contribute to the total cost of the airport upgrade project to reduce the amount sought from the Federal Government.

Wattle Range Council will not contribute funding to the redevelopment – councillors instead resolved to write a letter of support for the application.

Applications for round two of the Building Better Regions Fund close next Tuesday.