GRIFFITH’S former mayor has accused his successor of jeopardising flights between Griffith and Melbourne by “bullying” the airline which has promised to service the route.
Mike Neville was instrumental in early negotiations with the yet-to-be-named airline before John Dal Broi toppled him as mayor in the September election.
After continued delays in getting off the ground, Cr Dal Broi last week demanded the carrier honour its promise to get planes in the air, warning council would otherwise start looking for another airline to service the route.
Cr Neville labelled the mayor’s ultimatum “inappropriate” and accused Cr Dal Broi of failing to brief the full council before making “grand statements”.
“We need to be strategic about how we address these issues - it’s a substantial issue for the community and we need to be on top of it,” Cr Neville said.
“As far as I’m concerned, we should be rolling out the red carpet, not issuing an ultimatum that smacks of arrogance.
“The process may not be going as smoothly as we would like but we owe it to our community to get an appropriate player on the ground to make sure we can access Melbourne.”
The airline initially promised to take to the skies in early November.
Last week its spokesman blamed council for the delay, saying council had postponed laying a sealant on the tarmac at Griffith Airport three times and failed to inform him when the work was complete.
Cr Neville accepted the airline’s spokesman had been unreliable at times but was convinced he would come through with the promised service.
“A lot of steps need to be put in line before a new carrier can land an aircraft here,” Cr Neville said.
“The airline has entered into dialogue with two other cities, which is going very well. “The reason it has been different for us is because of our belligerent nature. Business operators do not want to be bullied by a lightweight like Griffith.”
Cr Neville said council should give the airline leeway for “as long as it takes to get the right result”.
“Timetables need to be established but we need to understand that when you’re dealing with two governments and an organisation like CASA (Civil Aviation Safety Authority), the process is not always going to meet the needs of ratepayers,” he said.
The airline’s executives will visit Griffith this week for “crisis talks” with council.