The push to upgrade Tenterfield’s airstrip has progressed with several councillors now supporting the bid, being spearheaded by the Tenterfield Presbyterian Church.
Pastor Jim Seymour convened a second meeting of interested parties at Stannum House on Friday, July 28 which Councillors Mike Petrie, Don Forbes and Brian Murray attended, each expressing their support for the project.
Mr Seymour said the church is behind the move due to its connection to Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) founder John Flynn, also a Presbyterian minister. While the focus of the push is for the airstrip to meet RFDS specifications, aiding patient transfers, it is hoped flow-on benefits could include flight schools, aircraft maintenance businesses and courier services.
Lawrie West, a member of the action group, dismissed concerns expressed by council’s former general manager Damien Connor about the financial burden placed on council of maintaining an upgraded facility. Changes required to meet RFDS specifications include a hard stand (concrete slab) for transferring patients in and out of planes, and earthworks to level out the strip for visibility from one end to the other. The addition of lights would extend operating hours. Council’s mowing requirements will not be altered.
In fact Mr West – a former councillor himself – said no ratepayer money was ever asked for when he raised the prospect of an airstrip upgrade while he was in office, nor when the matter was raised even earlier by then-councillor Nick De Stefani.
An application has been put in by the Tenterfield Presbyterian Church for a $20,000 federal Stronger Communities grant with a deadline on the day of the meeting, with a view to funding the landing lights. Information is being collected for a considerably-larger state-funded infrastructure grant closing later in the year, with the assistance of local contractor Daryl McCarthy who inspected the site on Monday.
Mr Seymour informed the gathering that he’d had a fruitful meeting with state MP Thomas George and mayor Peter Petty, who offered to present a motion to council on the matter. Supporters are confident that if council comes on board and its engineers are involved, the project can progress.