Aerodrome sale decision deferred

By Yarrawonga Chronicle

A decision on the outcome on whether to sell or not to sell the publically owned Yarrawonga Aerodrome has now been deferred until March 2019.

The recommendation to defer the decision was unanimously passed at Moira Shire Council’s December ordinary meeting on Wednesday, December 19.

Council’s December ordinary meeting agenda states at the conclusion of the s223 consultation period (October 12 2018) 19 submissions were received and three people spoke in support of their submission at the October 31 Committee of Council meeting. 

There was limited community feedback on the proposal with only two submissions received from the community and both were in support of the sale of the aerodrome. 

The consultation process emphasised the need to engage with the community and stakeholders to seek their input on future operation, management, development and ownership options and to ensure adequate future protection of their existing rights. 

The agenda states in addition to submissions (17), with a vast majority being from site owners directly associated with the aerodrome, stakeholders sought information and answers to a wide range of questions about the future ownership, operation and development of the aerodrome if it was sold. 

Many submissions referenced the aerodrome’s broad public benefit to the Yarrawonga community with air ambulance, police and fire services using the facility. 

The agenda states council anticipates providing support to the aerodrome that is consistent with the public benefit it provides to the Yarrawonga and Moira communities. 

In exploring the future of the facility council will seek to further define this support to ensure future council involvement is consistent with the principle that public funds should be invested in services and assets that provide broad public benefit in preference to services and assets that benefit a limited group and/or private business, does not create unreasonable legal and/or financial risks for council and complies with rules of competitive neutrality that apply to local government.

In seeking further detail about the future for the aerodrome, several submitters assumed council had received offers to buy and wanted to know the details of these offers. 

The agenda states council has fielded general inquiries from time to time but has never received a documented offer to buy however during the submission process several submitters indicated an interest in discussing this option should council proceed to sell. 

These are available on council’s website with the submissions. 

The agenda also states because the statutory process requires council to seek community feedback on whether it should even explore the proposal to sell the aerodrome before moving to the next stage of defining the form and nature of future ownership through an EOI or similar process council is unable to provide answers to many of these questions.

The Local Government Act prescribes a two-step process for the sale of council owned land. 

The first step requires council to seek community feedback on the proposal to sell. 

If council determines it will proceed with the sale, then a second and separate process occurs to identify potential offers/buyers. 

As part of the second step council is required to seek an independent valuation of the land.

The agenda states many submitters sought further clarification of council’s development plans for the facility. 

A number also signaled the potential to grow tourist traffic as local golf and accommodation developments come online and to support to local agriculture and agri-exports.

However several felt these opportunities were extremely limited because of the relatively close proximity to Melbourne.

“This is a procedural matter with extensive consultation with the stakeholders and is ongoing,” Cr Peter Mansfield.

Cr Wendy Buck agreed saying, “one good thing that has come out of the process it has been a catalyst to open up communications with the stakeholders to look at a way forward in the process,” Cr Buck said.

“However there doesn’t seem to be a collective view.”

Cr Kevin Bourke also agreed with Cr Buck’s comments on a united view. 

“There needs to be a much higher view of unity and willingness to work amongst the occupiers and to work with council,” Cr Bourke said. 

“I feel like we have come a long way but I think we need to try and meet as many as possible.

“I think the discussion will provide a good outcome, we need to keep at it and keep a good frame of mind.

“I look forward to moving forward with this project.”

Cr Peter Lawless made a point that there was no great rush to make a decision as the council wanted to make the right one. 

“There is no urgency to make a decision here,” Cr Lawless said.

“There is just too many variables on the options we might take to make a decision in a hurry, I think it’s a great eye opener but the decision we make in the future needs to be along the lines of how will we attract more and build on what we’ve got.”

The agenda states Yarrawonga Aerodrome is competing with equal or larger facilities at Albury, Wangaratta, Tocumwal, Shepparton, Corowa and Echuca. 

It is a competitive market and to operate successfully Yarrawonga needs to find a sustainable and affordable means of differentiating its services in this market.

Council has not prepared a development plan for the aerodrome but is aware of a number of safety obligations that would be triggered by expansion or renewal works. 

For this reason, Council’s development plans are limited to identifying compliance and safety obligations for publicly owned aerodromes - these may not apply to a privately-owned aerodrome or may not be required given the development plans of the future owner(s).

The agenda also states council and aerodrome stakeholders have participated in further discussions since the conclusion of the statutory process and this report seeks opportunity to continue these discussions with the goal of providing a concluding report for council’s consideration in March 2019. 

To conclude the existing consultation process and to provide certainty for users, site owners and the broader community it is recommended this process progress in the first quarter of 2019.