A Rolls-Royce resurfacing job on the Merimbula airport runway should give it a 20 year life and minimise disruptions if the Bega Valley Shire Council expectations are met.
Hewatt Earthworks Pty Ltd was awarded the tender at council’s February 6 meeting, and will do the job for $5.782 million.
The work will considerably strengthen the runway which is showing signs of stress and surface damage at the end of its design life.
However it not being constructed to the level of thickness required to accommodate jet aircraft.
“The main objective of the tender is to undertake an overlay on the existing runway with shape correction, widening of the taxiway, and apron and improve the runway lighting system and drainage,” said group manager infrastructure, waste & water Wayne Sartori.
The tender excluded its most controversial aspect which was to extend the runway 200 metres in a northerly direction.
In 2012 council successfully applied to IPART for a special rates variation of $334,000 per annum to service the debt for the runway infrastructure renewal.
Other sources of funds will come from the airport reserves, $1.23 million, 2011 operational surplus, $500,000 and maintenance reserve funds, $580,000. It will also absorb the funds from the rate peg increase of 3.4 per cent and the balance of the special rate variation, according to a council report.
“The renewal and strengthening works will cater for existing SAAB aircraft and RPT schedules over 20 years, or larger turboprop aircraft noting the aircraft technology and carrier fleets are likely to alter in that period,” Mr Sartori said.
Cr Sharon Tapscott expressed concerns that the council was poised to spend close to $6million without a business plan, or strategy.
She said she understood the urgency of the matter but felt uncomfortable with motion to accept the tender given the large amount of money involved.
General manager Peter Tegart explained that the renewal of the runway was independent of the airport strategy and masterplan both of which should be finalised by June this year.
Greens councillor Keith Hughes said the runway works were much more than a renewal.
“There were four different surfaces that could have been used but the council went with the most expensive because it said it would cater for more traffic and he doubted that was possible.
“No way can Merimbula compete with jet travel.
“Spending that amount of money which is more than required on the runway is not a good use of ratepayers’ money,” Cr Hughes said.
Mr Tegart said the other option was to design the pavement to a 10 year life standard. This is for a 20 year life. The renewal of the runway is will not cause competition to increase.
Mr Sartori said: “This (runway works) is not designed for jets in mind, but at the most larger turbo prop aircraft.
The motion to accept the tender was agreed to by all councillors with the exception of Cr Hughes.
AIRPORT TO BE CLOSED
“Council is currently in discussion with Hewatt Earthworks and REX airlines to establish the exact date of closure proposed for the airport,” Mr Sartori said.
“We are mindful of finalising the construction program as soon as possible to minimise inconvenience to flying travellers and those planning on using the airport in July or August this year.
“Once established, the approximate two week closure will be formally announced by public notice as well as through the media, our website and Facebook page.
“We understand this will inconvenience some people and businesses, but the work is necessary to bring the runway surface up to standard.
“Council apologises in advance of any problems this may cause,” Mr Sartori said.
The work all up is expected to take 20 weeks.