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Wagga Wagga council may lose airport lease next year

written by Jake Nelson | February 20, 2024

An aerial view of Wagga Wagga Airport. (Image: City of Wagga Wagga)

Wagga Wagga Airport could be leased out commercially when its current arrangement with the local council expires next year, a Defence official has indicated.

Appearing at Senate Estimates last week, Celia Perkins, deputy secretary, Security and Estate at Defence, confirmed that Wagga City Council has a 30-year lease on the airport that commenced in 1995 and runs out in 2025. The airport shares runways and facilities with RAAF Base Wagga.

There are currently eight airfields around the country that were formerly Defence owned and operated but now have differing dual-lease agreements, according to Perkins.

“There are no further options on that lease arrangement. What we are planning – and we have had conversations and negotiations with Wagga City Council – would be an approach to market for an arrangement to come into effect from June 2025,” she said.

“As we develop a planned approach to market, we will do that engaging with the New South Wales government and Wagga City Council. We develop those approaches to market in a variety of ways, consistent with the various Commonwealth property policies.


“It would be a commercial lease arrangement, which is quite different to privatisation.”

Perkins was questioned about recent $5.3 million upgrades to Wagga’s taxiway funded by the council with a “quite substantial” loan and noted that Defence had already reimbursed Wagga City Council slightly over $1 million for associated costs.

She also assured senators that there is the ability for a new lease agreement to require that services such as passenger transport, pilot training and aeromedical be maintained.

“I understand that, as you mentioned there, it is the key regional hub for aeromedical transfer. It is not at all unusual in these sorts of lease agreements to include important community and other services as part of the offering that must be provided,” she said.

“That has been part of the conversations that have happened so far with Wagga Council.”

Wagga Wagga is one of seven RAAF sites where nearby landowners were awarded a settlement over the use of toxic PFAS “forever chemicals”, and Perkins said Defence is working with Wagga Council to manage soil excavated during the taxiway extension.

“We have been undertaking, over a number of years, a comprehensive program of PFAS investigation and remediation around the country. These have been really important programs,” she said.

“There is a strong commitment by Defence to both understand the nature of PFAS movement through groundwater, primarily on airfields, and then to work in PFAS-affected sites on remediation treatment. They are quite difficult activities.

“I know we have been very active at Wagga, first of all in identifying the PFAS and its movement and then working with the local authorities and the New South Wales government on a coordinated approach.

“Approximately 1,900 tonnes of contaminated soil have been removed from the airport and disposed of at licensed facilities.”

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