Councillors Sally Townley, Paul Amos and Tegan Swan were the ones who lodged the rescission motion.
Councillors Sally Townley, Paul Amos and Tegan Swan were the ones who lodged the rescission motion.

Bomb threat overshadows Council's extraordinary meeting

A BOMB threat delayed this afternoon's extraordinary meeting held to consider overturning the recent decision to lease the Coffs Harbour Airport.

Councillors arrived to see police scanning the chambers on Castle Street for any threats.  A group of Councillors and  senior staff assembled down on the grass near Coffs Central.

It is understood the threat was delivered over the phone with reference to the 5pm time slot for the extraordinary meeting.

After police declared the area safe, the meeting kicked off around 5.15.

The rescission motion was moved by Coffs Harbour City Councillors Paul Amos, Sally Townley and Tegan Swan.

It was lodged after last week's meeting where Councillors were tied four/four and Mayor Denise Knight used her casting vote to proceed with the confidential deal.

Cr Swan took to social media in the lead up to the extraordinary vote on Wednesday afternoon saying she was supportive of the concept of leasing out the airport but just not based on the current arrangements which are confidential.

The confidential nature of the deal has been a major sticking point for many and Cr Amos has in the past attempted to have the details made public.

FULL STORY: Councillor slams 'culture' of confidentiality

Cr Amos has also expressed concern that Council has not sought the endorsement of the State and Federal Government in making the deal. They have both chipped in $10m towards the Airport Enterprise Park.

FULL STORY: Amos shocked State & Feds not involved in airport lease deal

He says the lease decision is the biggest this Council has ever had to make.

"Because of the length of the lease, and the impact it will have on many generations to come, and the dollars involved."

Coffs Harbour Airport.
Coffs Harbour Airport.

In a written address to Councillors Gai Anderson spoke in support of the rescission motion saying the lease would be like selling "the golden goose".

She has created a petition urging councillors not to progress with the lease and offering two options:

- don't lease it out at all and seek out a suitably experienced, capable manager

- lease it out for 10 years maximum.

After her address Cr Michael Adendorff asked Ms Anderson if it was somebody from "her community" who made the bomb threat.

Mayor Knight ruled the comment out of order and Ms Anderson assured Councillors she did not make the threat.

Cr Sally Townley said the current lease could "morpth out of control into something we can't possibly foresee."

"That's a really big unknown. A big abyss we can't describe now," Cr Townley said.

"Make no mistake there is no philanthropic intent here - it's purely a commercial arrangement."

Coffs Harbour Airport, control tower.
Coffs Harbour Airport, control tower.

Cr Swan also raised the matter of State and Federal Government involvement and asked for more clarification of the process to date.

General Manager Steve McGrath said the process had been outlined to all councillors on numerous occasions over the past three years.

"And what's on the table is indeed greater than the valuation (from independent assessors) and that has been communicated to Crs on numerous occasions," Mr McGrath said.

Cr Amos said people would be outraged at the deal if they knew all the details.

He said the length of the lease would "make anybody blush".

"The asset is not ours - it's the community's - and one we have been entrusted to look after."

Cr John Arkan addresses the Coffs Harbour City Council meeting.
Cr John Arkan addresses the Coffs Harbour City Council meeting. Trevor Veale

John Arkan also pleaded with Councillors to hold off on the deal.

"It's a long lease, it's bigger than my lifetime," Cr Arkan said.

"When in doubt take time, sit back. We don't need to go back on the process of staff but we do need to make a cautious decision.

"Big is not better, we can grow this airport - it's like growing a child, you don't hand the child over after you've worked on it."

When the rescission motion to overturn last week's decision was put to the vote it was again a tie.

Mayor Knight pointed out that, as per code of conduct, if it is a tie, the rescission motion lapses and the status quo remains.

This means the confidential airport lease will go ahead.