NEWCASTLE Airport says its potential partial privatisation does not mean that Williamtown is looking to become Sydney’s ‘‘second airport’’.
But the airport is hopeful the RAAF will lift the domestic arrival limit from six planes an hour to eight as it chases international connections with New Zealand, Fiji and Asia.
As the Newcastle Herald reported yesterday, Newcastle and Port Stephens councils voted on Tuesday night to restructure their jointly owned business.
If the plan is approved as expected by the Department of Local Government, the councils will be able to sell as much as 49per cent of the operation.
Airport chief executive Paul Hughes welcomed the restructure, but said a partial sale was unlikely ‘‘in the shorter term’’.
Mr Hughes said the restructure would take $18million of airport debt off the councils’ books and allow the airport to borrow more money on its own account.
‘‘There will not be much change from a day-to-day point of view, but it’s really important we have the right structure in place that allows us to grow when we need to, but in a way that’s consistent with the RAAF,’’ Mr Hughes said.
Paterson MP Bob Baldwin, whose electorate covers the airport, said it was time the two councils sold out completely.
Mr Baldwin said the councils had done a good job building the airport ‘‘from a tin shed when nobody wanted it’’ but the time had come to let the private sector take things to the next stage.
Businessman Hilton Grugeon, whose Hunter Lands is planning a major airport-related business park immediately south of the airport, also called for a full sale.
He said nobody would pay good money to buy into the airport while the two councils remained in control.
Newcastle Airport’s head lease is with the Department of Defence and its operations are governed by an agreement with the RAAF. A Defence spokesman said it would not be commenting on the airport restructure until the new year.