A review into Gold Coast Airport flight paths is shaping up as a repeat of the suburban dog-fight which erupted when members of the noise abatement committee (ANACC) gave the green light to a new flight path hierarchy in 1998.
Air Services Australia has bowed to pressure to undertake the wide-ranging review of the impacts on residents living under increasingly busy flight paths during a sky-high period of growth for Gold Coast Airport (GCAL). The regulator acted after the airport’s draft master plan predicted 113 planes a day would be landing at the airport by 2030, a sevenfold increase since the flight paths were last re-examined 14 years ago.
Avalanche of complaints
Fingal Head residents have fired the first shots with an avalanche of complaints to Air Services Australia (ASA) about a recent surge in international airliners throttling skyward just 3,000 feet above their heads.
Residents of South Tweed, Oxley Cove, Banora Point and Kingscliff living under the main southern flight path have recently formed a ‘Fair Go Alliance’ and say it’s time that aircraft noise and fuel pollutants were shared by other suburbs.
ASA is keeping details of the review low key, inviting hundreds of residents who’ve joined a GCAL community consultative group to a meeting to discuss the review only 24 hours before the deadline for their submissions closes on February 23.
One ANACC member, Barry Jephcote, said it seemed ASA was trying to keep a lid on a sensitive issue and at one stage set the deadline to expire two days before Christmas until they agreed to his request for an extension.
He says he is critical of ASA and GCAL for not doing enough to inform the public about the upcoming environmental review and the draft airport master plan which includes changes to flight paths north of the airport and an increasing rate of take-offs to the south. ‘The review is the first step in a process which could result in a change in flight paths and consequently a change in property values because of the impacts from noise as well as the chemical pollution,’ he said .
Under existing arrangements, about 70 per cent of aircraft departing the airport head south, with the lion’s share heading over suburbs belonging to the alliance, but Fingal Head has been hit with a sharp increase following the airport’s controversial push into Asia.
They are demanding that ASA stop all planes from flying over their village immediately, saying they were denied representation when ANACC allowed planes heading to new Asian markets to turn left over Fingal Head in 2001. They cite airport records showing they were encountering only three flights a week in 2001, but by 2010 the number of planes flying over Fingal had grown to 37 a week as new Asian routes opened up.
But Mr Jephcote, the village’s representative on the ANACC, says he needs to weigh the views of other suburbs he also represents, including Kingscliff and East Banora which are opposed to changes to Asian routes.
He says the push by the Fair Go Alliance to spread flight paths would also be resisted for the same reason it was defeated in 1998.
‘Most people who bought homes in these suburbs should have been aware they were under long-established flight paths and it’s unfair to push the burden onto those who paid extra to avoid them,’ he said.
Banora Point’s ANACC representative could not be contacted but part-time member Rod Bates says aircraft numbers using the flight path have trebled in the 12 years since 1998 to 13,300 a year.
‘We feel that because of the growth that’s occurred since the airport was allowed to open up to international flights, that there should be a fairer and more equitable way of sharing the load,’ he said.
ANACC currently has representatives looking after the five designated areas of the Tweed, apart from a vacancy which exists for the vast western part of the shire, which includes the fast-growing suburbs of Bilambil and Bilambil Heights.