The regional manager of the Chamber of Commerce has warned cutting regional flights will have a dire impact on local business. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gaye Gerard
The regional manager of the Chamber of Commerce has warned cutting regional flights will have a dire impact on local business. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gaye Gerard

'HARD TIMES': How Rex decision will affect local businesses

A business leader has warned our community will end up being "collateral damage" if Regional Express follows through on its announcement to cut passenger flights to the region.

Northern Rivers Chamber of Commerce regional manager Jane Laverty said the battle over territory between Rex Airlines and bigger airlines such as Qantas was political, and it would impact local business owners' ability to operate.

She said Rex received government funding and needed to remember Northern Rivers' communities had supported them for a long time, and needed to do everything possible before cancelling services.

"The past 12 months has been pretty hard times," she said, with airline travel being hit hard by COVID-19 restrictions.

She said reports were showing business was only just beginning to show positive signs, and businesses were starting to look to the future with confidence.

She said airline access made operating a business on the North Coast viable for many who chose to live here for the lifestyle but had businesses somewhere else, and they relied on that service to get to their customers.

"Lismore and Grafton are regional cities, key commercial centres," she said. "When you start to take away and strip those key assets, like airline access to Sydney, you chip away at economic potential."

She said losing rail access to Lismore, Byron Bay and Murwillumbah was tempered by the fact the region had "multiple access points".

Ms Laverty said people living inland may simply find it quicker, and more convenient, to go to the Gold Coast Airport rather than Ballina.

"It's a shame to have not give it everything that we could before we lost it," Ms Laverty said.