Federal government won't get between Regional Express and Wagga council

A Regional Express plane under maintenance in Wagga on Friday.

A Regional Express plane under maintenance in Wagga on Friday.

Regional Express (Rex) has failed in its bid to entice the federal government to regulate Wagga airport, after accusing Wagga council of treating the facility as a magic pudding.

Federal transport minister Darren Chester on Friday categorically ruled out involving himself in the commercial dispute between Wagga council and Rex. 

It comes after the airline conceded last week its Wagga services are “barely covering” costs and would need to scrap flights to Melbourne and axe 70 local jobs if forced to absorb council’s proposed 35 per cent airport tax hike, worth an extra $760,000 a year. 

“It’s not for me to intervene in a dispute involving local council and private business, but what I will say is it's critically important regional airlines remain viable and have certainty to continue to invest in future,” Mr Chester said.

Former Riverina MP and Rex ambassador Kay Hull will join the airline’s Singapore-based chairman Lim Kim Hai, local boss Neville Howell, council general manager Alan Eldridge and mayor Greg Conkey at a crisis meeting in Sydney on Friday.

“From my perspective, it would be common sense to delay any decision on passenger head tax until such time as there's a clear understanding of finances at the airport,” Mrs Hull said.

“If you have inflation running quite low, interest rates are quite low, if I were running a business I would want to understand why there’s been a massive increase.

“It's incumbent on us as a city to ensure our growth is sustainable and expansion is number one on the agenda, which means high frequency of air services; it's as simple as that.”

Riverina MP Michael McCormack revealed on Friday he has been trying to broker a deal between Rex and council behind closed doors and had a hand in bringing the two parties together. 

“It's absolutely imperative we get this situation resolved,” Mr McCormack said. “Rex has more than 145 jobs here in engineering staff and other occupations and it's so important given Rex has it's heart in the country, that's it motto, it has it's heart right here in Wagga.”

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