Mine workers and medical staff are expected to be the most affected by an announcement last week that Cobar’s passenger air service is set to cease at the end of the month.
Jessica Makarewitsch from the Regional Express (Rex) Corporate Communications Team confirmed on Thursday that Air Link, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Rex, will cease all Regular Public Transport (RPT) services between Dubbo and Cobar at the end of the month.
“Air Link has operated RPT air services between Cobar and Dubbo with connections to Sydney since August 2015 under a close working arrangement with local stakeholders in Cobar,” Ms Makarewitsch said.
“These arrangements have recently been concluded which has led to the air services being withdrawn.”
Following last week’s announcement Cobar Shire Council general manager Peter Vlatko organised a meeting on Friday afternoon with the managers of Cobar’s three major mines to discuss their options for the future.
Endeavor’s general manager Denver D’Angelo and Peak Gold Mines’ general manager Michael Zannes have indicated to The Cobar Weekly they are keen to work with Cobar Shire to try and attract another RPT service.
(CSA Mine’s general manager Pedro Quinteros was invited to comment for this article but had not replied as of our deadline.)
Both Mr D’Angelo and Mr Zannes said the cancellation of the air service will have a direct impact on their businesses.
Mr D’Angelo said recruitment, attraction and retention of people to a town without an air service will make the process more difficult.
Mr Zannes said the loss of the air service into Cobar would mean workers and their families who use the airline into and out of Cobar for work, medical and recreation will now need to fly into and out of Dubbo.
“This will increase the amount of time our employees and their families spend on the highway,” Mr Zannes said.
The story prompted many comments on The Cobar Weekly’s Facebook page from users of the service with one local mine worker saying the loss of the air service will now mean a 10.5 hour drive to his home in South Australia.
Bernie Martin, Cobar Primary Health Care Centre practice manager was unaware of Rex’s decision until Friday afternoon.
“It will definitely have an impact on the GP workforce as having direct flights to Sydney gave Cobar a bit of an edge over other rural remote places. We have struggled to recruit GP’s this year,” Mrs Martin said.
She said Dr Sanjay Jamwal is a regular user if the service as he flies to Sydney every second weekend to see his family.
“That’s the reason he came to Cobar from Lightning Ridge was because the flights made it easier for him to stay in touch with his family. I’m not sure how long he will continue to stay if the flights are no longer available.
“It’s very sad for Cobar. It now makes us more remote than ever,” she said.
Mr Vlatko said as part of the stakeholders plan to retain an air service he has tried to contact Rex National Airports Manager David Brooksby to see if a new arrangement can be negotiated. As of noon yesterday, Mr Brooksby had not returned his phone call.
State Member for Barwon Kevin Humphries has encouraged the discussions to continue.
“The State Government have invested in a multi-million dollar airport upgrade to attract air services and keep Cobar up to modern facility and run way standards.
“The agreements that have been in place in recent years between the mines, air operators and council have served everyone well.
“I would encourage those discussions to continue via relevant negotiation,” Mr Humphries said.