Big aerodrome lease 95% right - GM

By Robert Muir

Federation Council agreement for a long-term lease of Corowa Aerodrome with Amber Aviation (AA) is now expected to happen later this month.

“Negotiations are going well and positively. We’re both putting a lot of work into the last five per cent,” Federation Council’s General Manager Adrian Butler told councillors at their monthly zoom meeting last Thursday.

“We know the aerodrome does have issues around the tarmac and drainage. Council is still very excited about the project but we want to have the lease we are comfortable with.”

Expectations were high when councillors had received a long, detailed report by council’s director corporate and community services Jo Shannon for their monthly meeting on July 30 which recommended the lease signing, for an initial 34-year period.

But at last week’s meeting, Ms Shannon advised that discussions were still continuing with Amber to ensure both parties were totally clear on expectations.

“We want to ensure expectations around maintenance and asset renewal operations of the aerodrome are clear between the two parties,” she told councillors 

“Some of the assets are nearing the end of their life and pose a risk to council and Amber.”

Deputy Mayor Shaun Whitechurch said it is important that council is progressing along with the lease and emphasised the document’s significance. “To get the lease exactly right is important to both parties,” he said.

“I commend the staff of council meeting with Amber staff. They all want to make sure everything’s right.” 

Mayor Pat Bourke said the lease would represent a big commitment, leading to a harmonious future. “We look forward to finalising the lease agreement and having it spot on,” he said.

Cr Fred Longmire concluded: “The airport’s been going for over 80 years. Another month won’t hurt.”

In her report, Ms Shannon stated that the lease clauses are considered to adequately protect the interests of other groups operating on land within the proposed lease allotment, being the Rural Fire Service, and the Corowa Cougars Rugby League Club.

“Ultimately it is council’s desire to subdivide off those areas into two new allotments and enter into separate lease agreements with those two entities.”

Amber Aviation Group Chief Executive Officer Mahendra Naidu said the company looks forward with anticipation to the finalisation of the lease negotiations.

“Once the lease is finalised, Amber’s focus will be on fulfilling its goal for the region of Corowa in developing an entire self-sustaining aviation ecosystem,” Mr Naidu said.

“Our planned expansion will eventually create over 150 new jobs, comprising flight instructors, trainers and assessors, engineers, managerial staff, administrative staff and support staff. For Amber to be able to partner with Federation Council to deliver a facility that will be able to develop the next generation of pilots and support staff is such an exciting step forward and one we are immensely proud of.” 

The business model for Amber Aviation predicts that by year seven, AA would train up to 500 students annually and employ 150 staff.