Council considers selling Emerald Airport for areas future
THE Central Highlands Regional Council will consider selling off the Emerald Airport to shore up service provision of essential community infrastructure for ratepayers.
Councillor Paul Bell said a report from Brisbane consultants Edge Advantage in June would determine the future of the airport, Shepton Quarry and the council's water and waste services.
"The council is always watching its debt-to-equity ratio, and we have about $1 billion in assets, and debts of around $50 million," Cr Bell said.
"Part of this whole process now is to investigate whether some of these council assets could be sold or leased for a price, and for the benefit of that to help council reduce debt or invest in some other areas for better services to the community.
"This is a significant reform we are engaging in discussion on ... in regards to our way forward for the next five to 10 years."
Mayor Peter Maguire, who routinely removes himself from involvement in any airport discussions, said he was against any sale.
"Personally, I think it's ludicrous selling assets in the current climate, but that's what people are looking at and it's happening," he said.
Cr Bell countered by saying the airport was a profitable operation and any move to divest all, or part of it, would be following corporate models already set by the Gladstone and Mackay councils.
"Our ratepayers would understand we need to look at all options for our commercial activities to make sure we're getting the best return for those assets.
"There are some challenges before the council and no more of those than the new water treatment plant for Emerald which is in excess of $30m," he said.
"Those sorts of assets are critical for the health and well-being and growth in the town."
Cr Bell said the council hoped to raise "tens of millions" from any asset carve up.
"We are in a mature world of economics now, so we need to review and understand we're not going to continue to put pressure on our ratepayers through water charges and rates," he said.
"We need to push all the boundaries to get the best results."