Councillor Alan Brown
Councillor Alan Brown

Lofty ambition for Ballina airport

IT’S time for Ballina’s airport to become the hub for passenger services to the region, and for Lismore to handle general aviation and freight services.

This is the call from Ballina Shire Council’s airport committee chair, Cr Alan Brown, and comes after the lodgement of a development application for improvements costing $400,000 at the airport.

And while admitting it was unlikely to happen, Cr Brown said he would like to see neighbouring councils, particularly Byron Bay, chip in for some of the maintenance costs of the airport, which has seen passenger numbers grow by 14% in the past year.

However he was quick to add the Ballina-Byron Gateway Airport, which can take jet aircraft and has a direct Melbourne service, was self-funding and didn’t need cash from other councils to prop it up.

There are plans to bring 500,000 passengers a year into Ballina airport by 2015.

Cr Brown said his idea was more about improving services to the region.

He said if passenger flights into Lismore airport came to Ballina instead, the increased numbers may then lead to the airlines seeing potential to start services to places like Newcastle.

And he said the opening of the Alstonville bypass, and the December opening of the Ballina bypass, meant road travel from Lismore to Ballina was now much quicker.

“Governments are continually encouraging councils to share resources,” he said.

“This would allow Lismore to make better use of their airport and allow the passengers to come into Ballina rather than fragment Rex’s operations.”

Lismore Mayor Cr Jenny Dowell admitted “we all get parochial at times”, but said there was a need to have passenger services into Lismore airport, which was still economically viable.

“The two airports serve two different kinds of flying passengers,” she said.

“Ballina clearly is more focused on tourist passengers.”

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