Medical services and tourism the big losers if deregulation of flight services introduced
LOCAL health services and regional tourism are likely to suffer if a plan by Transport for NSW to deregulate the Sydney to Moree flight service comes to fruition.
That is the opinion of Tourism Moree CEO Tammy Elbourne and Pius X Aboriginal Corporation chairperson Cathy Duncan, who both agree that deregulation could open the airways to substandard flight services, with a worst-case scenario being no service at all.
It’s a track the Moree Plains community doesn’t wish to travel again after three years ago fighting tooth and nail to have QantasLink reinstated as the regular carrier after the financial collapse of Brindabella Airlines left Moree without a service for several months.
Ms Duncan says QantasLink is a safe, reliable air service but fears deregulation could force the carrier out of the market.
“We at Pius have concerns over deregulation, especially the very real possibility of Qantas not servicing the Moree community,” Ms Duncan said.
“We are concerned about not having a reliable airline in the future – we have medical specialists fly in and out of Moree regularly and they prefer Qantas.”
Reliability and well-timed flights are crucial factors for medical experts who routinely visit Moree.
“Ill-timed flights will limit their availability to service clients as well as the number of clients they can see,” Ms Duncan said.
“These specialists usually fly in and fly out just for a day as it takes them away from their own busy practices or hospitals. Regular morning and afternoon – or early evening flights – are crucial to keep these services working.
“Cancelled flights and unreliable services means that patients will not have specialists to see them and this would affect the health of our whole community,” Ms Duncan said.
“Some patients had to travel to Sydney to see specialists and some didn’t get to see them for months due to airline troubles in the past.
“Cancer doesn’t wait, but early diagnosis will save lives. Children need to access psychologists, paediatricians and ENT specialists regularly and we need visiting cardiologists – you can’t stuff around with people’s hearts,” Ms Duncan said.
“We service our own Aboriginal communities in Moree, Toomelah and Mungindi. We also have people coming from Tamworth and can also service non-Aboriginal clients from the district as well,” she said.
Mrs Elbourne said the board and management of Tourism Moree fully support the wishes of the Moree Plains community – that the Moree to Sydney air route remains regulated.
“We do not support the deregulation of this service, at all,” Mrs Elbourne said.
“Moree is a transport hub and to deregulate this service would mean uncertainty for our community. It would be a huge backward step.
“We have been down this road before and it was devastating for many businesses and people within our community.
“Our Shire does not need to experience that again and we need to be moving forward in a positive direction, knowing that we have secure, safe and reliable service to meet the needs of our community,” she said.
“Tourism is a significant industry for the Moree Plains Shire, worth more than $53 million a year.
“The current air service (QantasLink) meets the needs of our tourism products and businesses including accommodation, hospitality, retail, car hire, attractions, meetings and conferences, and the agriculture sector.
“To change this would be extremely detrimental to our industry and many other industries within our region,” Mrs Elbourne said.
Tourism Moree is continuing to work towards attracting higher yielding markets to the tourism make-up of the Moree Plains, Mrs Elbourne said.
“The current regulated air service is a must for this to continue and to allow for the local industry to grow,” she said.
“Within the region, during the past few years we have seen Moree Plains’ visitations increase by more than 19 percent, while some of our larger, neighbouring centres have seen a decline.
“This increase can be attributed to a number of things including our accessibility of transport, the businesses within the shire and products and services that we provide to our visitors.
“It is therefore imperative that we have an airline service that is regulated, and committed to our community for years to come.
“The Moree Plains is a strong, dynamic and passionate community, and we understand and know what we need to make our community work for us,” she said.
Story and Photo: Bill Poulos
The story so far:
Qantas will focus on “providing reliable services to Moree”
Josh McGregor: “Regulation gives a single, quality carrier the confidence to maintain and invest in the route – it’s madness to endanger that”
Adam Marshall: “I stand with the community and MPSC to maintain the regulated route and will make every effort to ensure this occurs”
Mayor Humphries says Moree could “end up with no airline at all” if deregulation comes into play
Don’t mess with Katrina Humphries: transport minister sent from the fat to the fire over deregulation debate
Katrina fires up!
Click this link to listen to ABC Radio’s interviews with Andrew Constance and Katrina Humphries
Adam Marshall: “I won’t support any move which threatens the continuation of regular air passenger services at Moree”