Byron business has wings clipped
ONE of Byron Bay's biggest employers faces an uncertain future as the cash-strapped Byron Shire Council steps up its cost-cutting and revenue-raising program.
The owner of Skydive Byron Bay, Adrian Kennedy, only found out yesterday the council planned to put all leases at Tyagarah Airfield out to tender following its consideration of a confidential report at a closed meeting in October.
Skydive Byron Bay has been operating at Tyagarah since 1981 and, according to an economic study commissioned by Mr Kennedy, provides about 100 local jobs and an estimated $35 million in direct economic benefits to Byron Bay.
“We've been paralysed as a business for four years now because we can't get any certainty on our lease,” a frustrated Mr Kennedy said.
“Unlike our competitors in Ballina and on the Gold Coast, who have security of tenure, it is extremely stressful for us financing our aircraft and parachute equipment.
“They can invest with confidence because their local gov-ernment supports them, but we don't know what's going on in Byron.
“We have a similar operation in Mission Beach where we provide 25% of all employment and when you walk into council they ask ‘how can we help?'.
“It's the same situation for the surf and dive businesses in town too.”
Byron Shire Council executive manager of corporate management, Mark Arnold, said the council had considered outsourcing Tyagarah Airfield to a third party last year, but had resolved to proceed with the signing of a 20-year lease with Crown Lands.
“At that time, there were no financial benefits to be had from council transferring the management of the airfield to a third party,” he said.
“As a result, council is currently preparing new leasing tenders for the airfield's current premises.
“The new tendering process will aim to move the airfield to a neutral financial position in the short-term and move towards a positive return for council in the medium term.”