Without a wink or a nod to west and south Tweed residents, NSW deputy premier Andrew Stoner has opened the doors on Crown Reserve lands known as Tweed Heads Pony Club by freeholding the lands.
In a race to the finish line, Gold Coast Airport was a winner by a mile, the prize being a lease giving the capability for runway extension to Parkes Drive in west Tweed Heads, not just enough land for installation of an instrument landing system.
The lease is for a period of 86 years with an undisclosed rental and with an option to purchase.
As a consequence, all the public recreation and conservation lands have now been incorporated into the airport property. It is unclear at this stage just where the pony club, which has occupied the land for 35 years, will be re-stabled.
Extension of the runway to 2,850 metres was confirmed by Gold Coast Airport Limited in a letter to the planning minister Brad Hazzard on 25 November, 2013 (P5) obtained under GIPPA. ‘In the longer term, the securing of the additional land area for the airport will enable construction of an extension to the runway’.
Anyone familiar with the history of the airport in Tweed shire, would appreciate that runway expansion to Parkes Drive, as previously proposed in the original and revamped 1999/2000 master plans, was twice rejected ‘due to the adverse effects on the natural environment, public open space and the amenity of residents in the flight path’.
The current coalition government under the new planning regime, defines the airport as a ‘key region shaper of state significance’. The association agrees. But the airport could continue to provide this economic drive, and sustainable growth, without gobbling up all the public lands and removing the buffer zone to the detriment of Tweed residents.
No modelling is available on the impact of runway extension to 2850 metres, that is, within approximately 500 metres of Kennedy Drive.
It is to be hoped the minister, who declined to apply council’s proposed zonings of RE1 Public Recreation and E2 Environmental Conservation in the LEP 2012, which would have prohibited airport development in the lands, sees fit to apply those zonings to the remainder of the lands not required for airport development.
A substantial part of the land, containing about 10ha of ancient sclerophyl forest to the east of the M1 motorway and west of the Tweed bypass was included in the lease, despite there being no plans for terminal or other airport expansion in the area. A small remainder area of 16 hectares fronting Parkes Drive alignment is proposed for pony club use under licence for a period of 10 years.
The lease, will in the short term, (0-5 years) allow for installation of an Instrument Landing System (ILS) , installation of a Runway End Safety Area (RESA) and High Intensity Approach Lighting (HIAL).
Instead of just granting a lease over the lands required for the ILS, the government has ensured that runway extension to 2850 metres (i.e. within 500m of Kennedy Drive) will occur in the longer term, and in the short term, movement of the landing threshold 310 metres further south.
Movement south of the landing threshold will bring arriving plans lower and noisier over the Tweed for a longer period.
The 2009 N70 contours, based on actual flights, show an average of 50 events per day above 70Db in an area extending to South Tweed Heads.
Australian Noise Exposure Forecasts for 2031, with a landing threshold moved 310 metres further south, show approximately 104 movements per day on the R32 South to North runway alone.
The airport expansion plans should frighten more than the horses.
Also at risk, under the currently deferred ‘until after the state election’ new Crown lands legislation, are all Crown lands in the North Coast.
The minister removed the need for public consultation on the Pony Club Crown Lands by changing the status of the land to freehold Government land. Lot 490 at Kingscliff was also freeholded, enabling its sale.
If the minister’s actions regarding the Pony Club Crown Reserve and Lot 490 are a precedent, Tweed shire residents should be very scared about the possibility of the government freeholding Crown lands such as Jack Evans Boat Harbour foreshores and other prime coastal sites for high rise.
Ronni Hoskisson, secretary, Tweed Heads Pony Club.