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Byron Shire
October 3, 2023

Byron council rejects heliport at Tyagarah

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Myocum resident Matthew O’Reilly addresses Council. Photo Eve Jeffery
Myocum resident Matthew O’Reilly addresses Council. Photo Eve Jeffery

Eve Jeffery

Byron Shire Council resolved last Thursday that it ‘does not support and thus removes any reference to commercial helicopter operations or activities operating at Tyagarah Airfield, including construction of a heliport’.

Council also voted to have a social impact statement completed before considering any expansion and intensification of commercial uses at the Tyagarah Airfield.

The resolution also called for noise impact assessment, a strategic floodplain risk management plan, community consultation to include all affected stakeholders, and a report on the cumulative ecological impacts of tree clearing required for the airfield. Cr Alan Hunter voted against the motion.

Myocum resident Matthew O’Reilly spoke to the airfield issue during public access.

His concerns included Council getting DAs for vegetation removal; environmental impact assessment for vegetation removal; and what he described as ‘poor quality community consultation’.

Council also asked the minutes to note the difference between ‘heliport’ and ‘helipad’ as defined in the Byron Shire LEP (2014): a helipad means a place not open to the public used for the taking off and landing of helicopters; a heliport means a place open to the public that is used for the taking off and landing of helicopters, whether or not it includes: (a) a terminal building, or (b) facilities for the parking, storage or repair of helicopters.

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  1. Elements of Byron are my neighbours and they have a helicopter. Not sure if there has ever been an impact statement on how that affects the residents here.

  2. Good move. It will not be long before private operators will want to take joy flights over the bay and the lighthouse.
    My brother lives near the 12 Apostles and has had to move from his home because of the impact of helicopter joy flights. It has reduced the breeding population of the sea eagles and weakened the cliffs. There are helicopters sometimes 6 at a time flying past and there is no peace for surfers, beach goers or local residents.

    There are not rules in the air that refer to sound or vibrations that can be regulated by council so at all costs you must continue to impose this ban.

    Unfortunately they will move to operate out of Ballina and somehow you must also make the Ballina Council aware of the impact joy flights will cause long term for residents, beachgoers and surfers and wildlife.

    It is a very very real problem in Port Campbell National Park but because there is so much money to be made it is impossible to stop now.

    Don’t let it start.

  3. Thank God Council exercised some sanity regarding Tyagarah and the airfield. Going back to the first Council commissioned Aerodrome Feasibility Study in 2001 to evaluate the potential economic benefit of the area, the report noted that the Aerodrome had very limited benefit and even less possibility for an economic benefit to Byron Shire.

    Not being satisfied with the 2001 report, Council decided to waste more ratepayers dollars and engaged a Consulting group specialist called “The Airport Group”… in the course of their report preparation, they met with the various Tyagarah Aerodrome Area stakeholders holding current leases on both Shire property and Crown property that make up the core area under scrutiny.

    Their preliminary report included notation of problems like: The runway is not paved- there is no way to monitor and impose takeoff & landing fees- there is insufficient rent derived from lease-holders and there are no real viable remediations or additions to add value- the only source of add’l revenue could come from renting additional aircraft hangar space, if in fact there was demand-etc.

    So, basically Council’s expensive Consultants- funded by Byron Rate Payers- reached pretty much the same conclusion as the original 2001 feasibility report. And no one bothered to supply the 2014 consultant’s with a copy of the ‘original 2001 report; lest it taint their conclusions…funny that…So two independent Consultants reached the same conclusion.

    Council’s reply was to allocate more funds to the consultants for more reports above the high, five figure/ low six figure invoice they had already paid for the “New” 2014 report.

    Then, a Helipad proposal appears on a BSC 2014 LEP (released for public exhibition in 2016) to be built at the Aerodrome that experienced less than a handful of helo landings in the last several years. Some residents were apparently under the impression that the addition of a Helicopter area in Tyagarah would be as an adjunct to the new Byron Hospital. However when the Hospital was planned, the ‘Copter issue was considered and it was decided that an adjacent parking facility would be sufficient. It was not for lack of money or space that a ‘proper’ Copter facility was not specified for the hospital.

    However, the implications of a medical evacuation from Tyagarah via helicopter to, say, John Flynn Gold Coast could be a potential nightmare as egress from Byron would be contingent on PAC Highway traffic- especially on weekends and public holidays, and time of day. Tyagarah Airport is not an “instrument airport” meaning aircraft can only land in daylight and in reasonably clear “VFR” Visual Flight Reference conditions. this means no arrivals or departures before or after sunset and in inclement weather! And we all know, a hospital does not shut down at 6 p.m. or during a rainstorm…

    The Tyagarah Aerodrome was built in a different era. It was never envisioned to be a commercial entity. the runway is grass, and starts & ends at the PAC Highway and the Ocean. It’s next to a Marine Conservation Park, and coastal crosswinds can make takeoffs and landings tricky.

    It seems that the REAL significant beneficiary of the aerodrome is the Parachute Club… Well it’s not exactly a club nor is it the once, little, local club- it now is part of Skydive Australia. With eighteen locations throughout the country, it’s now the largest, most profitable, privately owned skydive business in Australia. However, their payments to the Shire are so commensurately minuscule, it’s as if he Aerodrome was maintained (at an annual, ongoing financial loss) exclusively for this private business.

    Maybe it’s time for Council to dump the consultants, stop trying to regenerate Koalas right next to the killer PAC Highway and the Bluesfest Grounds, and examine more closely their annual revenue streams and their maximisation. It’s the old case of trying to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse that will never happen.

    How many more dollars need to be spent till they finally ‘get it’?

    • I must say I find your responce amusing. Maybe in future you should put less effort into long replies and a bit more effort into researching the facts before you post. You do know what a plane looks like do you not? Its those things with wings? Your knowledge of general aviation is clearly so minimal I thought I should check.

      Though Im sure your all for shark nets and drum lines being out in the water to keep Byron bays beach users safe instead of burning huge sums of rate payer dollars ferrying helicopters to and fro lismore to conduct shark patrols instead of simply operating the aircraft from tyagrah in the first place given that was the primary purpose of this proposal which has been stupidly knocked back.

  4. I think all locals who live close to airport should organize a meeting, all get stoned, and come up with some sensible answers!

  5. tim,

    Regarding my bonafides regarding Aviation, I spent twenty years in the aviation industry so my knowledge is in depth from prop planes, to jets and helos…

    There are much less expensive ways to monitor sharks than flying Helicopters at approx. $500/hr.

    A commercial (or even a good consumer model) quality Drone would be sufficient for a fraction of the cost of Helicopters, fuel, pilots, maintenance, and 100dB sound bouncing off the ocean.


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