Airport cost fears

COSTLY: From left, Whyalla City Council CEO Chris Cowley, Centre Alliance Senator Rex Patrick and Centre Alliance Candidate for Grey Andrea Broadfoot.
COSTLY: From left, Whyalla City Council CEO Chris Cowley, Centre Alliance Senator Rex Patrick and Centre Alliance Candidate for Grey Andrea Broadfoot.

The Whyalla City Council have raised concerns about the cost of anti-terrorism security measures at the Whyalla Airport, saying it could force them to put in place a one-off rate rise of 5 per cent.

The federal government is contributing $50.1 million to upgrade security at regional airports through the installation of body scanners and advanced x-ray equipment.

Compulsory security screening has been put in place by the government for regular public transport flights carrying 40 passengers or more, which will affect Qantas flights out of Whyalla and Port Lincoln.

The Whyalla Council is eligible for $1 million from the federal government to fund the new security measures, but CEO Chris Cowley confirmed this would only cover half of the full cost.

Council would also incur ongoing costs to the tune of $750,000 per annum to engage a security firm to maintain the equipment.

“To put that into context that would mean a one-off rate rise of five per cent in any one year to cover that cost,” Mr Cowley said.

“That is a cost which is not sustainable and should not be passed on to our ratepayers.”

Centre Alliance Senator Rex Patrick, who visited Whyalla on Monday with Candidate for Grey Andrea Broadfoot, said the federal government’s policy could stifle air travel to regional centres.

Mr Patrick said security was a national issue which regional councils shouldn’t be required to fund.

“If there are genuine national security concerns then we need to make sure the costs are covered out of consolidated revenue,” he said.

Member for Grey Rowan Ramsey said he raised the implications of compulsory security screening early last year and passed amendments in Parliament to allow the regulator flexibility in dealing with airports with low passenger numbers.

“I fully expect suitable arrangements will be able to be made to ensure Whyalla and Port Lincoln passengers are not unfairly penalised. (The costs) will be managed within the flexibility granted within the legislation,” he said.

“Without the flexibility in the act Whyalla would have been the worst affected airport in Australia with a per ticket cost of around $80.”