Councillor rips into Rex over $8900 credit note
COUNCILLORS have agreed to give Rex more financial assistance, but not before one sensationally called for the airline to "pull their finger out".
The request was too much for Cr Debrah Novak who launched an extraordinary broadside at the organisation at last week's council meeting and suggested the company was "bleeding us dry".
"We are not in the business of bankrolling other big businesses … our job is to actually look after our ratepayers," she said.
"They need to pull their finger out."
Cr Greg Clancy agreed that council should not issue the credit note and said there had been enough concessions given to the battling airline, after council voted in April to remove all head taxes for six months.
When asked about the issue of ratepayers' money going to the airline, Rex said it was happening at both a state and federal level.
"The Commonwealth has put aside $1.3 billion to assist airlines in Australia the bulk of which goes to Qantas. State governments are also providing assistance," a spokesperson said.
"All this is taxpayer's money. Why should local councils be any different?"
In the end, a majority of councillors voted to support the airline and Cr Jason Kinglsey pointed out there were airlines across the world with "far bigger budgets and turnover" which were in financial stress.
And given the economic reality of servicing the airport, Cr Kingsley said council was "snookered" and it supported many professionals who flew into the region for work.
"Rex has indicated on numerous occasions they are providing a service to the Clarence Valley at a cost to them, there is zero benefit for Rex," he said.
"We have numerous government departments that have set up office in Grafton … we would be at risk of losing further government departments."
Cr Karen Toms said the airline, while important to the Clarence, was vital to rural and regional towns across the state.
While she acknowledged there were some who opposed the financial support, Cr Toms said she took a "bigger picture" view, a view which was shared by the state government.
"If we lose our airline we will lose more services that may not be seen by some people who seem to think it is just a tourism destination airport, which of course it is not," she said.
"We need to ensure we do everything we can to assist Rex Airlines to keep them going."
The motion was carried 7 - 2 with Crs Novak and Clancy voting against.
Note: This story was edited to correct Cr Clancy's position on the credit note who agreed the credit should not be issued, but not in the language it had been expressed by his fellow councillor.