Aviation check MP to examine options

Monday, 15th October, 2012

By Erica Visser

State MP John Williams will investigate air services amid calls to remodel regional aviation and deregulate the Broken Hill to Sydney route.

The proposed "hub and spoke" model would mean flights would converge at a country centre where passengers would board a larger aircraft to travel to Sydney.

The idea was recommended by the Standing Committee into State Development in a recent report on economic and social development in Central Western NSW.

Meanwhile, local Councillor Peter Black has put forward a "motion of urgency" to City Council for Mr Williams to lobby the State Government to deregulate the direct Broken Hill to Sydney route.

In the past, Rex Airlines had exclusive access, however the contract is up and the NSW Government is seeking Expressions of Interest (EOIs) for the single license.

But Mr Williams yesterday said neither of the recent proposals was the answer to maintaining and expanding aviation services in the city.

The member for Murray-Darling was not aware of the regulated Broken Hill to Sydney route but said it was hard to attract competition regardless.

He referred to a number of regions which Rex had pulled services from recently and the resulting need for Broken Hill to be "careful".

"We've seen the withdrawal of other air services from Cobar, Mudgee and other places... ultimately you've seen Rex withdraw from quite a few locations," he said.

"These are the risks you take when you decide to attract another airline...it's all about the amount of volume and traffic.

"I'm a regular on Rex and I see it fully loaded and with very few passengers...I think that is the biggest problem facing regional airlines."

Mr Williams said the idea of a regional hub also depended on the volume of passengers use.

"Once again, I don't think there's the traffic for that... Mildura is now a hub for us anyway," he said.

"You'd also have to look at whether these things were under the State of Federal governments. I will look into it."

The Chairman of the Standing Committee into State Development, Rick Colless, said in a letter to Council that the hub and spoke model would have benefits for country NSW.

"Such a model may have a positive impact...through the provision of increased air services," Mr Colless said.

"The Committee does not consider that this proposal would have an impact on direct air services from Broken Hill to Sydney."

Deputy Mayor Darriea Turley said that she would support the deregulation of the route if it did not have a great financial impact on Council.

"I think we need to look at any opportunity to boost tourism and our connection to Sydney but we need to be confident about the costs associated with it," Councillor Turley said.

"One cost associated with deregulating that line would be the standard of airport we'd have to have and increasing security.

"At the moment our budget is not strong. I'd be calling for a report on the cost-analysis when that motion goes to Council."