Ballina Byron Gateway Airport hit hard by COVID-19.
Ballina Byron Gateway Airport hit hard by COVID-19.

REVEALED: Future-proofing the Ballina-Byron Gateway Airport

PLANS to soften the Ballina-Byron Gateway Airport's predicted heavy economic blow due to the COVID-19 pandemic was brought to light before the Ballina Shire Council this evening.

After hearing a detailed plan of action from airport manager Julie Stewart, councillors were asked to review a new long-term financial plan for the council-owned airport at the council's commercial services committee meeting.

According to the financial plan, the airport's cash operating surplus is expected to reduce from $2.066m to $1.269m this financial year.

It also forecasts a deficit of $896,000 in 2020/21, representing a negative turnaround of close to $3 million.

Ms Stewart confirmed the airport was still operating 24/7 and was available for all aero medical and charter aircraft operations.

But she said the passenger terminal was now closed except for regular public transport (RPT) services.

She said staff were working hard to plan for predicted loss of airport revenues.

"We've got budget pressures over the next few years until the pre existing RPT's services return," she said.

"There is also commercial pressures from the airlines and tenants until the ramp up period.

"So we are looking at community access for air services for urgent and other essential travel and getting government support staff to our region.

"We are also leasing department with federal and state governments on the Ballina route subsidies that might be available."

She said "lot of capital works had been suspended".

"We are only doing urgent and essential capital works like lighting and we are looking at getting the carpark works done, while it's empty, so we can try and get some revenue when we come back.

"We are pushing out the other works so we've hopefully got some money (from that)."

She said screening staff had all been suspended, the cleaning contractors had been reduced and terminal utilities had been minimised.

"Airport staff are ramping up some of the maintenance around the aerodrome they haven't been able to complete previously," she said.

"That includes taking advantage of widening of the runway opportunities … we are getting some painting and landscaping done as well as a bit of patching on the apron.

"We protected some money in the budget to make sure we can continue with that.

"We've also got some terminal defect upgrade works completed."

The councillors unanimously decided to include of the long term financial Plan for the Ballina - Byron Gateway Airport in the draft 2020/21 to 2023/24 Delivery Program and Operational Plan.