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Outback air services need more passengers, or they will be lost

CEO of the Joint Organisation of Councils Ross Earl says local air services are critical for remote communities. Photo TWH

Airports across western NSW will get upgraded following successful council applications for state and federal funding.

The new investment – in infrastructure, line marking, and lighting – showed optimism about the future of commercial airline services to the region, according to Walgett Shire Mayor, Jane Keir.

Councillor Keir is urging residents, businesses, and other organisations to continue to patronise the Air Link airline services into Walgett and Lightning Ridge, which received a four-year funding subsidy from the state government through the Far West Joint Organisation.

With less than two years before that arrangement expires, Councillor Keir said it was a case of ‘use it or lose it’.

“Most times those Air Link flights are at 80 per cent capacity which is good, but we need to continue to use the service and we need to keep our airstrips up to scratch.

“The funding won’t go on forever and when it ceases, we need the services to be well established and viable to continue servicing our towns,” Clr Keir said.

CEO of the Far North West Joint Organisation of Councils, Ross Earl, was confident the two airlines servicing the region – FlyPelican to Cobar and Air Link to Bourke, Walgett and Lightning Ridge – would continue to grow over the coming years.

He said surviving the impact of two COVID lockdowns showed that the airlines, in better circumstances, would thrive.

“These air services have been critical to the communities of Bourke, Bre, Lightning Ridge, Walgett and Cobar,” Mr Earl said.

“Clearly over the COVID period they had their ups and downs, but that was the situation with airlines all over Australia, not just in our region.

“As we get back to normal circumstances, we are seeing an increase in patronage for those flights.

“They offer a great opportunity for our communities to have that connectivity, which is so important to the region.

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