Shellharbour councillors have signed off on a $20 million upgrade of the Illawarra's airport, despite concerns the overhaul is "a poor use of public money".
A majority of councillors voted to approve the contract for the terminal and other airport works last week, but independent Peter Moran said he had major concerns about the project's viability.
Speaking at the council meeting, Cr Moran said he thought council staff who recommended the upgrade should go ahead were "courageous", as he said he believed the costly project may become redundant.
"There has been an history of difficulties operating regular passenger services out of the airport," Cr Moran said, referring to failures of Qantaslink and JetGo operations.
"From the information that was provided to the councillors in the confidential part of the meeting [in July], I personally am very unsure as to the advisability of constructing a significant piece of infrastructure to deal with passenger transport services when there may at some stage in the future no longer be a need for it."
He said councillors needed to make sure public money was well spent, and remained unconvinced of the merits of the upgrade.
"I can forsee a time in the future, when we will once again, as we have on four occasions in the past, see the end of passenger transport services," he said.
"The briefest of looks through the terminal would show that it's not being used to its full capacity as it is. The size of the planes that operate out of here is less than the number of passengers that the terminal can hold at any one time."
"I'm worried it will turn out to be a white elephant funded by the taxpayers that sits there and has no benefit to the community."
While the cost of the airport contract awarded remains secret, the budget for the overall airport upgrade project is $20.35 million, which includes $15,977,322 NSW Government grant funding and $4,372,678 of council funding.
Recommending the project go ahead, staff said it would "enable increased access to the region for development of tourism."
"The provision of a permanent passenger terminal at Shellharbour Airport will provide improved level of service and accessible amenities for passengers using the airport," council staff said.
Other councillors welcomed the terminal upgrade as an important milestone, with Mayor Marianne Saliba saying she was happy to be moving on with the project.
Kellie Marsh said it "would see us into the future, not only for corporate end of town but also for community", while Labor's John Murray said government funding for the project came with time constraints, so needed to go ahead as soon as possible.