An heroic effort is being made today by the Australian Airports Association to give the small or metro airports in the major cities a future.
It’s a huge ask, in the face of highly adverse public policy legacies, political inertia, and the inherent problems such airports have, of being redevelopment targets for non aviation retail or industrial developments that would be far more attractive to their private owners than their vital roles in supporting general aviation, flying schools, and providing bases for emergency of mercy flight services that are inherently incompatible with large airports.
These issues have arisen because of the turn of century privatisations of primary and secondary airports in Australia, where it could be fairly argued that the policy settings of government were getting a quick quid and to hell with anything but lip service to consumer and citizen interests.
The fine print in the sales contracts and regulations about preserving the aviation functions of extensive single title real estate development opportunities was to all intents and purposes treated with contempt by both sides of politics, and there is no convincing evidence that either the Coalition or Labor really gives a stuff, whether at state or federal levels.
Cue today’s opening of the Australian Airports Association national conference, unfortunately with hindsight, on the Gold Coast, where the total focus of the general media and the TV crews has been Schoolies Week, and scenes of our sons and daughters off their faces on drugs and alcohol, amid the assorted attentions of toolies, medicos and police.
This isn’t a new message from the AAA but it is one rendered more urgent as general aviation and support activities wither and retreat under the rising pressure of punitive pricing policies by some metro airports, and the impact of declining affordability for other GA participants at large.
The AAA has to fight to lift the profile and interest levels GA used to enjoy so that the business and regulatory cases for securing the long term future of the metro airports like Moorabbin, Bankstown, Camden and Archerfield can be argued in real dollar terms not just statements of principle.
The organisation has released a paper in support of saving metro airports which not only makes its case, but perversely tallies all of the attractions of flat open level spaces close to or surrounded by CBDs and suburbs that make them so desirable to non-aviation real estate developers.
This paper can now be downloaded here, and is highly recommended.