Wagga City Council dismisses ‘discrimination’ claims by AOPA over proposed airport fees

AOPA Australia executive director Benjamin Morgan has called on Wagga City Council to reconsider additional airport fees.
AOPA Australia executive director Benjamin Morgan has called on Wagga City Council to reconsider additional airport fees.

Wagga City Council has dismissed claims aircraft owners are being discriminated against by the proposed installment of landing and airport parking fees at Wagga Airport.

It comes after the Aircraft Owner and Pilots Association of Australia released a formal statement calling for Wagga administrators to remove fees in order to “encourage greater use of (the) airport”.

Under the proposed parking fees, visiting fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft could be hit with fees of up to $9.68 per day, per tonne.

In a letter addressed to Wagga City Council general manager Peter Thompson, mayor Greg Conkey, and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, AOPA Australia executive director Benjamin Morgan said the fees were at odds with charges made for other public space assets.

“The City of Wagga is imposing special and unique conditions that discriminate private and private business aircraft owners, requiring them to pay fees and charges that are not expected or levied against their boating, camping, caravanning or road-travelling counterparts,” he said.

“Should a tourist or visitor choose to fly their general aviation aircraft to Wagga, they are required to pay landing fees and parking charges - simply because they used a runway (and) not a highway.”

Wagga City Council general manager Peter Thompson has addressed claims made by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of Australia.

Wagga City Council general manager Peter Thompson has addressed claims made by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of Australia.

AOPA Australia claimed caravan owners and boat owners in the region weren’t required to pay fees and charges at council owned sites, however, Mr Thompson was succinct in his dismissal.

“The support for the submission would seem to have no direct relevance,” he said.

“The owners of caravan parks routinely charge for the use of their infrastructure as do the owners of rail assets in NSW.”

Mr Thompson also refuted allegations of discrimination against aircraft users and pilots, arguing fees and charges are routinely applied to the state-wide aviation sector.

Wagga City Council's proposed airport fees compared to other regional airports.

Wagga City Council's proposed airport fees compared to other regional airports.

“The proposed charges are not discriminatory towards aircraft owners,” he said.

“Even a cursory investigation of the management of similar facilities across the state reveals that the proposed approach to the management of Wagga Airport is consistent with the approach at other facilities.

The reason for (our) approach is that the airport facility is an expensive asset to construct, operate and maintain.”

Council stated a number of submissions had been made regarding the proposed fees, which would be considered in the coming weeks.