Letter to the Editor: Sue Abbott’s View on the Airport Review

Filed in Just In, Opinions by September 1, 2020

HAVING read the Morrison Low Airport report, which I believe is to be made available to the community soon, I remain concerned with respect to the museum-side of the project. Personally, I still do not feel that there is an actual case in this current climate of the world for another fossil fuelled driven project.

However my primary concern is that the Upper Hunter Shire Council (council) is putting the ratepayers at enormous financial risk given that so much of the project is uncertain and reliant on variables with the only certainty being the expensive nature of the development.

Among other things, I am concerned that (and I quote) ‘growth rates for the project and initial demand have been derived from a small sample size’ and that the success of the project relies upon (and I quote) ‘high growth for the museum and air show visitation for financial dependence.’ Also figures quoted from the 2018 Warbirds Over Wanaka as an example of why council should go ahead with this project are, in my view, not necessarily an indicator of success for such an event when you consider the world that we live in now with covid-19 underpinning everything we do.

Moreover, I am not sure how the museum project will attract traffic from the Scone bypass into the town for ‘invigoration of towns’ given that the airport is nowhere near Kelly Street. How are the businesses along Kelly Street likely to benefit from the museum project especially when you consider the museum project appears to be a fully contained ‘one-stop shop’ with its own ancillary services? Furthermore, how will ‘invigoration of towns’ apply to Aberdeen, Cassilis, Merriwa and Murrurundi?

Within the Morrison Low Airport report summary findings it is noted that ‘council acknowledged community concerns and so reduced expectations and assumptions’ – what does that exactly mean and how was that done? The review goes on to mention that the inability to attract numbers is a high risk, yet the review only classifies the current pandemic as a medium risk which I find quite inexplicable.

I am also surprised that nowhere in the report is global warming mentioned. I do not know how anything can be approved from here on in anywhere in the world without considering the optics of climate change. There has been a massive downturn in the fossil fuel industries along with a catastrophic downturn for the aviation industry. Oil refineries are closing down due to the slump in demand, coal ships are circling the planet due to an over-supply, and currently most of us cannot leave Australia nor come into Australia. In my opinion, all of this is highly likely to have a negative impact on the Scone aviation museum project.

I think everyone knows that I have always been of the view that council ought not to be in the business of event management and with the early Warbirds Over Scone before the last one held in 2018, council was not. But since a decision of council in 2017, the risk of the Warbirds event(s) along with the museum project has been passed to the public, and that greatly worries me.

I remain concerned about when the new architectural design for the museum was prepared, who decided upon it, and who approved the design, and I remain concerned about the onerous task ahead of managing this museum project largely because I am very mindful that the ratepayers of the Upper Hunter Shire are already exposed to significant cost overruns as a result of council’s failed attempt at building a road between Merriwa and Willow Tree.

In my capacity as a councillor for the Upper Hunter Shire Council, I voted against approval for museum-side of the Scone Airport project last night.

Sue Abbott is a ratepayer and resident of Scone, as well as a councillor for the Upper Hunter Shire Council. This post is written in her personal capacity and does not represent the views of organisations she is, or has previously been, affiliated with.

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