THE airport on a ridge that was never going to fly has been consigned to history.
The newly-formed Central Coast Council put a “For sale” sign on the site of the proposed Kiar Ridge Airport in the northern half of Wyong last week, only two years after Wyong Shire Council controversially paid $10 million for the land to build it on, and a few months after the council abandoned the project.
“It was inevitable,” said Wyong resident Laurie Eyes, who spent thousands of dollars fighting the council for confidential documents showing the serious hurdles that stood between Wyong Council’s dreams of an airport, and the reality of the site’s constraints.
“It wasn’t called Kiar Ridge for nothing,” Mr Eyes said.
“You don’t build airports in amongst ridges.”
The council was forced to admit it had repeatedly incorrectly stated the land, owned by development company Terrace Towers, was independently valued, after the Newcastle Herald revealed there was no independent valuation before a deal worth $17 million was struck for the airport site and another large parcel of land.
A confidential report to the council showed the cost of removing 10 million cubic metres of soil from the ridge over a two-kilometre-long area was estimated at $75 million because of the "challenging" site.
The earthworks extended into Lake Macquarie without Lake Macquarie Council’s knowledge.
Mr Eyes said even the $75 million earthworks estimate was too low, after estimates of $1.5 billion to move 22 million cubic metres of soil at the Sydney Badgerys Creek airport site.
The council was told stage one of the Kiar Ridge project would cost $265 million. The council would have to fund the entire cost up front because “it would be difficult to attract investors to the project”. It would also require council subsidies for “most of the airport’s operating life” because it “would not be capable of generating incomes sufficient to provide a return on investment” for at least 15 years.
Mr Eyes was scathing of Wyong Council secrecy over the Kiar Ridge project, and further secrecy after it abandoned Kiar Ridge in favour of significant upgrades to Warnervale Airport.
“I think the whole thing is scandalous,” he said.
He described Newcastle Airport as “the elephant in the room” that was not being adequately considered by proponents of a Central Coast airport at Warnervale.
Ratepayers were entitled to know how much was being spent, and how many millions of dollars the council will lose on the Kiar Ridge land sale, Mr Eyes said.
Central Coast Council did not respond to questions.