Any thoughts of renovating the Tenterfield airstrip to better-accommodate planes in inclement weather have been shelved by councillors after the price tag was revealed.
Costings were done on a complete bitumen seal ($3,090,000) and on an upgrade to the existing grass strip ($1,070,000), taking into account Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) requirements.
A report to council prepared by technical projects engineer David Counsell said that a similar assessment carried out in 1998 didn’t allow for compliance with Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) standards, and associated estimates fell well short of construction costs at two recent runway upgrades in other councils.
“Once you seek to change a runway profile, the resultant grade needs to comply with CASA MOS139 requirements,” Mr Counsell said.
Council staff undertook significant testing, mapping and modeling to determine the earthworks required (should the strip not be sealed), resulting in the need to move and re-compact more than 19,500 cubic metres of material.
Even if grant funding was secured to seal the airstrip, ratepayers would be funding a resurfacing every 10-15 years.
On presenting the report to councillors, chief operating officer Andre Kompler said council couldn’t afford the upgrade 20 years ago and can’t afford it now.
“Works have got to be done to a standard,” he said.
“It’s not a case of ‘let’s get out there on the weekend and see what we can do’.”
Mr Kompler said if council was looking to increase the airstrip’s usage, it may be an option to seek grant funding.
Councillor Greg Sauer said the RFDS can land there in daylight in optimum conditions, with the rescue helicopter out of Lismore the other option. He predicted no increased usage of an upgraded airstrip by emergency services.
“It’s a dead duck as far as I’m concerned.
Cr Michael Petrie concurred.
“We have to fix the bridges first,” he said.
“Anyone who can’t land a plane out there shouldn’t have their licence.”
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