COUNCIL’S announcement last night that an independent review of the Scone airport development will be undertaken has been welcomed by residents who were concerned with the business projections. (Read: Airport Project to be Independently Reviewed).
Daryl Dutton, resident and former general manager of the Upper Hunter Shire Council said it is needed to get the project on track.
“There is definitely a need to maintain and rehabilitate the airside infrastructure to ensure it is available for instrument flight landing operations, but it needs to be done in a fiscally responsible and sustainable way,” said Mr Dutton.
“At the end of the day it is good to see it has happened, ideally it would have happened in September, but there is still the opportunity to ensure upgrades to the airport are made in a responsible way,” he said.
“I would want to ensure the review is undertaken by a company with considerable expertise and is a major accounting firm as we have previously requested, so that it doesn’t fall into the trap of lacking confidence in the process,” he said.
“The Council used KPMG to assess the Campbell’s Corner business plan and a company of that calibre would instill more community confidence,” said Daryl Dutton.
In terms of Council being unable to award any tenders for the airport due to all coming in above Council’s budget, Mr Dutton said it suggests Council’s projections are inadequate. (Read: Tenders Blow Out On Airport Project.)
“I would suggest if they are all over budget, that Council’s original budget is inadequate, bearing in mind we were told by the Mayor and general manager that expert quantity surveyors and consultants had been engaged, that costs were realistic and the project could proceed based on their budget,” said Mr Dutton.
“Clearly they either need to negotiate and reassess the amount of work to be undertaken,or a new design or other major changes need to be made to their project to come under their financial resource limitations, or they need to increase their resources,” he said.
“Much has changed since September and their original business plan, not only the pandemic, but it didn’t account for the aviation museum which has opened at Dubbo, the expansion at Williamtown and now the announcement from Cessnock, so the whole competitive environment has changed,” said Daryl Dutton.
Geoff Pinfold, local resident and a stakeholder at the airport said his main priority is responsible financial management for the ratepayers.
“In a nutshell what they have done is introduce a commercial plan into the masterplan which wasn’t part of the masterplan adopted by Council, that is the element which needs review,” said Mr Pinfold.
“The commercial plan is based on highly questionable market and business assumptions that need to be reviewed by people with expertise in that area,” he said.
“As long as the things they go ahead with are the things that need fixing, the runway surface and airside major maintenance items that aren’t related to the commercial activities, those things need doing,” Geoff Pinfold said.
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