The News Weekly understands that the current lessee of Merimbula Airport, Ian Baker, of Airport Agencies Pty Ltd has formally handed a letter to Bega Valley Shire Council stating that he is not interested in renewing the airport lease when it expires at the end of June 2015 and has requested an exit strategy be prepared.
Bega Valley Shire general manager, Leanne Barnes has confirmed that a letter was received from Mr Baker but would not discuss the detail of the contents. Ms Barnes said: “We do have a letter from Mr Baker and we are considering this with councillors.”
The letter and its contents will be part of the workshop for councillors held today, Wednesday, April 2 which covers the airport and its future operations.
Ms Barnes denied that Mr Baker’s letter placed any more urgency on the situation than previously. “It is one of things that will be discussed at the workshop,” she said.
At today’s workshop councillors will look at “a whole range of different models” for the airport, Ms Barnes said with the possibility for mixing and matching different aspects of separate models. She said that the only item that was no longer on the table was putting the airport up for sale. Councillors had agreed that was not an option they wanted to consider, she said.
The lease on the airport was due to expire June 30, 2014 but in February council agreed to extend the current lease by a year. This follows a similar move back in January 2012 when council agreed to extend the lease for a one plus one year term, when the lease expired in March 2012.
Council has been discussing the future of the airport for some time and more recently had held community consultation. At the meeting in February this year when council agreed to the most recent extension of the lease, mayor, Bill Taylor pointed out: “The future development and management models for the Merimbula Airport have been on council’s agenda for a considerable period and over the past two years have been considered at 10 council meetings.”
A report on the airport, following the councillor workshop today, is expected at the next council meeting on Wednesday, April 16.