Liberal candidate for Ward 1 Michael Begg is calling for the existing operators of Katoomba Airfield near Medlow Bath to be granted a further lease to ensure it can be maintained as an air base during bushfire emergencies.
Mr Begg welcomed a recent decision by the NSW Government to grant the Rural Fire Service access to the facility but said he was concerned “if council’s push to have the airfield incorporated into the Blue Mountains National Park is successful, [it] will fall into a state of disrepair and cease to be an effective resource for our firefighters”.
“In my opinion the best solution is to have a private operator present on the site to maintain it.
“If elected I will be pushing for council to work with the NSW Government to allow the continuation of the lease of this vital airstrip to the existing private operator (Katoomba Airfield Pty Limited).
“The safety of both our firefighters and the wider community is too important not to consider a commonsense approach like this.”
Mr Begg said he was aware of environmental issues at the site and called for a rethink of its environmental management.
“There are two important protected areas, a Blue Mountains swamp and a Eucalyptus Oreades forest. To ensure these are protected on-site runoff controls will need to be implemented as a condition of the continued use of this site.”
Katoomba Airfield’s chief flying instructor and current leaseholder Rodney Hay said he would like the NSW Department of Lands to grant him a new lease when the current one expires in 2013.
“We’ve widened the main runway and we groom it regularly to meet the requirements and specifications for light single-engine and twin-engine planes to take off and land,” said Mr Hay.
“In the years I’ve been working here I’d say at least 16 light aircrafts have done emergency landings on the runways.
“This is what it amounts to — if the lease is not continued the airfield can no longer be used by light planes.”