Council seeks help for airport

Snowy Valleys Council will make an application of $459,000 through the Federal Government’s Regional Airports Program for the first stage of infrastructure and improvement works slated for the Tumut Aerodrome.

The works identified include a drainage improvement system ($76,000), construction of the south-east taxiway and apron/turning circle to service the NSW Rural Fire Service facility ($350,000) and renewal of animal-proof fencing ($33,000)

The council has $153,000 in its Tumut Aerodrome Reserve which could fund a third of the construction of the south-east taxiway.

It will also consider allocating further funding for the development of a Master Plan to inform the subsequent stages of improvement works, as part of the 2020/21 budget process.

The deputy mayor John Larter said the work would allow the airport to function more efficiently.

“It’s a first step so it won’t encapsulate everything but it is obviously a part of a greater plan to make the airport a significant and vital part of productivity for all sorts of services and it’s an essential piece of infrastructure for emergency services,” he said.

“In the longer term, it could have the capacity to run small scale Rex plane flights every now and then once the proper infrastructure has gone through.” 

President of the Tumut Areo Club Craig Cullinger said that the subject of upgrades to various sections of the facility had been frequently discussed in meetings over time and of particular interest was the standard of the runway. He said that the shortness of the runway’s length means that air tractor firebombing planes, which are supposed to carry around 20,000 litres of water, can only take 1,300 in order to be able to take off.

“I know there’s been talk about extending the runway for a little while after the last big fire incident we had around here,” he said.

“There was also talk about the grass and gravel where the fuel zone is because it’s quite gravely and when the helicopters land it gets very dusty. There’s concerns about turbo jet aircraft ingesting debris because of that. 

“There’s also not a real lot of access straight to the runway from where they refuel so that’s another reason to look at the taxi way so they can come in one way and go straight out near the RFS shed.

“There’s also an element of trying to make it more commercially viable and maybe trying to get small passenger aircraft going.”

The council’s unanimous decision to fund part of the project from the Tumut Aerodrome Reserve came on the back of previous revelations during council’s ordinary meeting that its projected budget deficit for the financial year had ballooned out to more than $4.6 million. It’s first quarterly budget review found the council was close to $3 million behind its forecasts.

As a result, Councillor Margaret Isslemann expressed concern that the council was continuing to overspend.

Council has until December 13 to apply for the grant.