MP queries cost of airport project

Jackson Lavell-LeeBusselton Dunsborough Times
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In a letter to the City obtained by the Times, Ms Mettam questioned the cost to ratepayers of the The Busselton Margaret River Airport development
Camera IconIn a letter to the City obtained by the Times, Ms Mettam questioned the cost to ratepayers of the The Busselton Margaret River Airport development Credit: Busselton-Dunsborough Times, Jackson Lavell-Lee

Vasse MLA Libby Mettam has accused the City of Busselton of failing to make clear the full cost of the Busselton-Margaret River Airport development.

In a letter to the City obtained by the Times, Ms Mettam questioned the cost to ratepayers due to rising costs for the airport development given the City was $34.4 million in debt.

She said the City also failed to mention expected annual depreciation charges for airport infrastructure forecast at $830,510 as well as a reserves transfer of $829,182 drawn from the airport marketing and incentives reserve.

According to Mayor Grant Henley, the airport generates a net surplus of about $550,000 per year.

Ms Mettam also said the surplus figure excluded a further $87,530 in expenses linked to the airport, which was instead reported in the City’s budget under buildings and facilities maintenance.

Those costs would result in the BMRA operating at a cash loss, Ms Mettam claimed.

City chief executive Mike Archer said the author of the letter was reading the City’s financial information selectively to discredit its financial standing.

“As reflected in the June 30, 2019 financial statement, the City of Busselton has debt loan borrowings of $34.4 million which is deemed appropriate given the balance of our current assets and cash reserve which is $73 million,” he said. “This is well within the Local Government Department’s debt/loan borrowing ratio.

“The BMRA has run at an historical annual operating surplus for the past five years.”

Despite the assurances, Ms Mettam said she wanted full disclosure of all costs relating to the BMRA.

“I am supportive of the City of Busselton and in particular the previous Government’s investment in the BMRA project, however I firmly believe the City needs to be transparent with its ratepayers,” she said.

“I am seeking additional information in relation to the anticipated costs to the city of the incentives package that the City has entered into with Jetstar.”

Mr Archer said the City had received $3 million from the State Government to support airline attraction and to fund airport terminal equipment.

“There has also been a State Government funding commitment of $1.7 million to renovate the existing terminal for departures and construct a new temporary arrivals facility,” he said. “The City is not required to cash back depreciation, and if it was to do so, this would result in an increase in rates of around 45 per cent.”

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