A western NSW council has taken legal action against the Illawarra passenger flight operator, JetGo, lodging proceedings to start dissolving the company over an unpaid debt.
Shellharbour mayor Marianne Saliba says her council will be watching closely to monitor any ramifications for Illawarra flights, but JetGo’s managing director Paul Bredereck has insisted it’s business as usual.
Last week, according to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, Dubbo Regional Council lodged a request to wind up the airline with the Supreme Court.
Mr Bredereck said the legal action was over a long-running dispute over the calculation of passenger taxes for JetGo using Dubbo Regional Airport, with the council now asking the airline to pay up.
“It is unfortunate and highly unusual that Dubbo Regional Council has chosen to go down this path, and we would consider it to be ethically inappropriate,” he said.
Mr Bredereck said he believed his company would successfully fight the order in court next month, saying the council had previously agreed to “waive all passenger charges, landing fees and parking fees for the first year of the operation” and provide a discount in the second year.
“In any case, the size of the debt is manageable if we were to lose, but we don’t believe we will lose,” he said.
“This has no implication for services in other area, including the Illawarra. Airlines have good times and tough times, it’s all part of the business cycle.
“We have a very good and effective line of communication with Shellharbour council.”
On hearing of Dubbo council’s court action, Cr Saliba said Shellharbour would be seeking assurances from JetGo about the future of its Wollongong to Melbourne and Brisbane services.
“There is always cause for concern when we hear this sort of action being taken – because if Dubbo is successful the company would be wound up and would not be able to provide any of the flights they’ve committed to,” she said.
“There is a huge implication for us if ASIC winds up the company because this is our passenger service and there will be people in our city who have purchased tickets to travel.”
JetGo’s legal troubles aside, Cr Saliba said flights to Melbourne from Wollongong had proved extremely popular – with a 91 per cent patronage.
“Whatever happens with JetGo, we would want to see a passenger service continue at Albion Park,” she said.
After their public meeting on Tuesday night, Shellharbour councillors received a confidential briefing on the city’s regular passenger transport.
However Cr Saliba said she could not reveal what was said in this session.
Should Dubbo council’s winding up order progress any further, Cr Saliba said Illawarra residents should ensure their flights were purchased with a credit card which would allow them to obtain a refund in the event the company was dissolved.
The Mercury contacted Dubbo Regional Council for comment but was directed to their lawyer, who did not respond.