Offer to buy Lismore airport came 'out of the blue'
AN OFFER to buy the struggling Lismore Airport had come "out of the blue", according to the city's mayor, Jenny Dowell.
Although she would not confirm who had made the offer, or for how much, it is believed to be for around $20 million and comes from a freight company based in Western Australia.
Councillors had been told some time ago of the offer but, in the interests of fairness, have now decided to open it up to expressions of interest for the purchase or long term lease of the airport.
Mayor Dowell said that selling the airport had not "been on our radar" when the offer was made.
"Yes, it came out of the blue, but I can confirm an offer has been made," she said.
"You don't often find an airport listed on eBay or the Trading Post, so that is why we have opened it up to expressions of interest."
It opens up the possibility that Lismore Airport could become a freight hub for the region and Ballina be utilised more for passenger services.
Where that leaves a carrier like Rex airlines, and its operations out of Lismore, remains to be seen.
"You've always got to look to the future and that may be maintaining Rex," Mayor Dowell said. "But we'd be foolish to ignore an offer like this."
Airport users found out about the offer yesterday, but some are fearful that it may shut them out or at least raise landing fees.
One caller to The Northern Star, who described himself as an "aviation enthusiast with a professional background", said he was not opposed to the sale of the airport as long as conditions were in place.
"I'm not opposed to the whole concept provided that the rights of those that own hangars or the general aviation side is protected," he said. "We need access to the airfield and provided the roads to the actual hangars and infrastructure are maintained there should be no problems at all."
It's understood that any takeover by a private company may result in the airport's runway being extended to accommodate larger aircraft.
This opens up the possibility of noisy jets taking off and landing "24/7".
"That is quite likely to happen if it is a private airfield, they will determine who can, and can't fly in," the aircraft enthusiast said.
"If that happens there will be 24/7 jet operations in Lismore up to 3am in the morning and the whole of poor Lismore is going to hear it.
"You only have to think about the noise when the sprint car races are on, and jets make a lot more than that, and there are going to be between 10 and 15 jets per day."
Mayor Dowell said by calling for expressions of interest they were throwing the "fishing line" out there to see if anyone else may be interested in taking over the airport.