[author]Steve Spencer & staff reporters[/author]
Tweed Shire Greens councillor Katie Milne today called for public transport plans to Brisbane Airport to be accelerated in the wake of noise complaints by residents living in the flight path of Gold Coast Airport.
Ms Milne said with the Commonwealth Games on the horizon the pressure on the airport to increase the number of international flights in particular will be enormous unless other transport options are available.
‘I would like them to do further investigations about options for the transfer of international passengers from Brisbane instead, which would seem to be a very timely process in light of the Commonwealth Games coming and the potential for future infrastructure, she told ABC radio this morning.
Her comments follow calls by Fingal Head Community Association for an immediate suspension of flights over the village, saying residents have been inundated with aircraft noise as a result of a steep increases in flyovers since the extension of the airport’s runway in 2007.
And it warns other Tweed communities that noise pollution will continue to rise as flights are redirected in a bid to reduce aircraft noise over southern Gold Coast suburbs.
Association president Dawn Walker says more than three quarters of flights are now heading south over the Tweed.
In the seven months to the end of July this year, Airservices Australia received 30,213 environment and noise complaints from Fingal Head residents.
But Airport Noise Abatement Consultation Committee (ANACC) member Laurie Ganter said the number of flights over Fingal Head had recently dropped slightly and suggested there was a campaign by the community group to eliminate all aircraft flying over Fingal.
Mr Ganter, who is also president of the Tweed Heads Residents Association, said the majority of complaints were sent by ‘the same people’.
‘They want someone else to cop the noise,’ he said.
‘There has been no increase in flights over Fingal. The complaints are artificially generated,’ he said.
‘How else could complaints increase from about 400 a month to something like 2,000. There hasn’t been a massive increase in air traffic over Fingal during that time.’
Mr Ganter said he feared many legitimate complaints from other areas of the shire were being ‘overshadowed’ by the mass of Fingal complaints.
But Ms Walker disputed Mr Ganter’s claim of no extra flights, saying there had been a 33 per cent increase in 2008, a further 70 per cent increase in 2009 and 25 per cent more flights last year.
She said the federal government and Gold Coast Airport had to ‘take responsibility for dumping jet aircraft over Fingal’.
‘We don’t want this to happen to any community. We want an investigation into how this has happened,’ said Ms Walker.
‘They cannot hide behind the airport’s hand-picked volunteer representatives [on the ANACC].
‘There has been no satisfactory outcome and residents continue to complain. Less than 24 hours after the closing of submissions for the airport’s preliminary draft master plan, Airservices forwarded an environmental assessment report that the Fingal Head community had requested prior to the close of the planning process.
‘The denial of this information until the day after the closing date is a clear bastardisation of the overall process.’
Ms Walker said the report confirmed that ‘the introduction of 070 as the assigned heading for jet departures from Runway 14 to the north occurred in 2001 as a direct result of a resolution passed at an ANACC meeting’.
‘ANACC is a committee of the Gold Coast Airport, a so-called consultative forum, not a decision-making body.
‘Community representatives are hand-picked by the airport and Fingal Head has been excluded from representation and repeatedly refused a seat on the committee.
‘This committee made the decision in 2001 to direct heavy aircraft, including international aircraft, over the top of the fragile and environmentally protected Fingal peninsula.’
Mr Ganter said Gold Coast air traffic was predicted to more than double during the next 25 years, but complaints would do little to lessen the impact on Tweed communities.
He said a campaign to extend the rail line from Brisbane airport to Coolangatta was the only effective way of reducing aircraft noise in the Tweed.
‘The only way to cut the number of flight is to send passengers to Brisbane’, he said.
‘Four out of five passengers are tourists and the Tweed economy needs them.’