A letter from Mr Warrick Lodge, General Manager (Network Strategy) for Regional Express was received by Council and a Special Meeting was convened by Mayor Sage on Monday 23 March 2020 to provide Rex with a timely decision before irreversible damage is done to the bottom line of the regional carrier. At this meeting Council resolved to support a zero percent head tax for a period of six months commencing 1 April 2020, to be reviewed after this time period for a reduction between 70% to 100% of the head tax for the following three month period.
Rex has been providing a passenger transport service to the Limestone Coast community since 2002 and Council recognises that the airline contributes significantly to socio-economic wellbeing of the region. In recent times a Community Fare partnership agreement was founded between the District Council of Grant and Rex which resulted in 23 percent of passengers in and out of the Mount Gambier Regional Airport taking advantage of a more affordable community fare.
Mayor Sage is worried about the COVID-19 crisis and hopes that Council demonstrating strong and decisive support for Rex during this time will support the regional airline.
“The recent $715 million relief package is a fantastic start for the aviation industry and I commend the Deputy Prime Minister and the Morrison Government for acting swiftly to provide assistance. However, this situation is changing daily and Council, in doing their part to help alleviate financial pressures on the airline, hopes this leadership and support is mirrored where possible. The assistance package will provide all airlines across some cost relief but this will not be of any benefit if airlines stop flying”.
Mayor Sage went on to say “Council stands with Rex during this time and will do as much as they can to ensure the survival and retention of Rex services and that this joint statement to the media is testament to this commitment”.
Mr Lodge was pleased by the announcement.
“Rex is appreciative of the heartfelt support from the District Council of Grant, during this time where airlines all over the world are fighting for their survival. It will take the support of all levels of Government for Rex to continue providing regional air services beyond the 6 April 2020. This offer of support by the District Council of Grant is critically important at this time and Rex is continuing to work with State and Federal Governments in an attempt to keep essential regional air services operating”
Mayor Sage also reassured the community that its business as usual at the Mount Gambier Regional Airport.
“We still have the RFDS and other air services operating. Social distancing barriers and hygiene reminders have been implemented in the terminal building. In regards to the Mount Gambier Regional Airport Upgrade, it’s a fully funded and budgeted project so this will continue with its current schedule with a completion date of December 2020.”
Over the past week, Rex have undertaken a Network Capacity Review which is set to commence from 6 April 2020, but Rex later announced that it would be forced to cease all services with the exception of its operations in QLD operations, should it not receive financial assistance from all levels of Government . This will see all services in and out of the Mount Gambier Regional Airport cease, as there will be an estimated reduction of passenger numbers by around 80 percent, making the operation of the airline no longer viable for the short term.
Queensland has retained its Rex services as they are underwritten by the QLD government in that state and Rex has proposed a similar model to other State governments. The District Council of Grant will also lobby Federal and State Governments to support the retention of regional air services for the Limestone Coast.
Please keep informed by Council on the COV-19 situation and the status of Council sites and services at yoursaydcg.com.au/covid-19.
The Mount Gambier Regional Airport is owned and operated by the District Council of Grant.