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Byron Shire
May 22, 2024

Golden goose still causing trouble for some

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Aircraft coming in to land over houses in Skennars Head. Photo David Lowe.

Despite its many benefits, the Ballina Byron Gateway Airport is continuing to cause serious noise problems for some local residents, according to a motion presented to Ballina Shire Council’s last meeting by Cr Simon Chate.

Cr Chate opened the discussion by stating for the record that he viewed the airport as one of the ‘jewels’ of the region, providing a world class service. He also said Ballina Council had recently received an email from a heavily noise impacted member of the community.

Cr Chate said he was moved by the sentiment contained within the communication, with the issue also being the subject of other conversations throughout the year. ‘It seems to me that there are a number of concerned residents in our community who are impacted by aircraft noise,’ he said.

His motion sought an update on what was happening with the issue since Cr Kiri Dicker’s previous motion on the subject in August 2022, in order to get a clearer understanding of the issues around aircraft noise and its impact on the residents.

Ballina Cr Simon Chate. Photo David Lowe.

Cr Chate noted that Ballina Council staff had responded with detailed answers to many of his questions regarding the number and type of regular flight movements, including takeoff and landing times, as well as approach and departure paths.

‘They’ve detailed the Australian noise exposure forecast contour map, which shows acceptable decibel readings and affected footprints, as well as the low number of residences directed within that footprint, and the sporadic nature and frequency of training circuit flights.’

Cr Chate thanked staff for this information and said he was now seeking an update on what had happened with council’s previous resolution on airport noise.

Ballina GM Paul Hickey said he had written to Air Services Australia, Jetstar, Virgin and Qantas, with the airlines providing little in the way of feedback, but all saying they were doing their best to minimise noise impacts on the local community.

Mr Hickey said that to put Ballina Byron Gateway Airport into wider context, Air Services Australia gets only ‘a couple of complaints a month from us’, while the Gold Coast Airport gets ‘3,000 on average’.

Ballina’s Mayor Sharon Cadwallader. Photo David Lowe.

Flight training jobs lost?

Mayor Sharon Cadwallader said one company that had been doing a lot of training flights out of Ballina had now moved most of its operations to Armidale, as the result of complaints, ‘which means it’s cost us jobs’.

She suggested the noise problem had been overstated, noting that on some videos she had seen the birds and crickets were louder than the aircraft.

Cr Cadwallader said Ballina would soon be gaining a digital control tower at federal expense (along with Canberra and Western Sydney), which would improve passenger safety and possibly also aircraft noise issues.

Cr Kiri Dicker sought an assurance from staff that Air Services Australia had been contacted with a request for an independent airspace review specifically focusing on appropriate noise abatement measures. Council staff said this had been done.

Cr Eoin Johnston said he sympathised with those affected by noise, and asked if pilots could avoid residential areas if possible? Mayor Cadwallader said this was already being done.

Cr Phil Meehan said he had experience of living under the flight path and noted that residents were warned of the issues when they moved into affected areas, and that the number of people complaining of severe problems was ‘very small’.

Virgin flight at Ballina Byron Gateway Airport. Photo David Lowe.

He told a story about asking his wife not to tell him about the noise, suggesting the issue was partly psychological.

While saying he was glad to support Cr Chate’s initiative, Cr Meehan said he was erring on the side of caution about ‘over cooking’ the noise issue, and ‘killing the goose that laid the golden eggs by complaining too much about something which is the responsibility of other areas in the end.’

Cr Kiri Dicker said the main issue was not passenger aircraft, but training flights, specifically circuit training, which were a law unto themselves, particularly affecting residents of Skennars Head. ‘We don’t know how many training aircraft there are. We don’t know what flight paths they take.’

She said that many of these trips starts in Ipswich or Brisbane, then people flew down the coast to do circuit training. ‘And we’re saying that it’s okay for people to do that seven days a week between 7am and 10pm?’

Cr Dicker said she would like to see a change to that curfew, or at least limit the days training aircraft could fly.

In the end, Cr Chate’s motion to seek more information passed unanimously.

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  1. I can sympathise with residents over noisy ‘training flights’ being repetivel and annoying.
    Around Lismore’s far smaller airport, constant ‘circuit trainers’ going round & round the local landmark (called Robinsons Lookout) do create local noise problems.
    The worst serial-offenders are here are the obsolete “Silver Goddesses”, unmuffled, old twin-engined aircraft now used as trainers coming out of Brisbane/Gold Coast and consequently avoiding local landing fees.
    They routinely fly at minimum legal altitudes during their multiple circuits over residential areas on near full throttle.

  2. Really? The airport has been there since Adam was a pup. If you live anywhere within 20 kms of any airport you should expect noise from planes. If anyone wants to learn to fly then our smaller airports are the perfect place for them to learn. These trainee pilots are the future pilots for many airlines and agricultural applications. We need pilots especially when we are in bushfire season.
    I bought my home, checked it was not in a flight path, low and behold some 8 years later the path was extended to include where I live. Do I mind, no, it is a pain during daylight savings as Gold Coast as there are planes still flying at midnight.
    We all want the convenience of having regional airports handy for us, but we rail against any noise being emitted.
    Sad to say you cannot have it both ways. I live in Point Cook in Melbourne and we made the decision to live between two RAAF bases which had planes flying daily. I loved having the Roulettes doing their low flying over my home.

  3. As a long term resident, we foreshadowed what an airport would do the quiet lifestyle that we all enjoyed . If you’re going to get an airport, then you’re going to get noise. Simple. Don’t know why the planners didn’t realise that.

  4. Buy a home in the flight path what do you expect?. The airport was there long before your housing estates. The noise only bothers you if you let it. Go cry to someone that cares. David Lowe, who let you across the council border, go back to leftyville.

  5. Mayor Sharon Cadwallader obviously prioritises ‘jobs’ over ‘residents’. The illegal, low flying (training) flights right over the residential sections of the island are still totally unacceptable – and un-necessary; considerate pilots do not fly low over the residential areas.
    Cherry Street

  6. It is an Airport, they have planes, planes are very noisy generally a little louder than Cr Cadwallader’s ” birds and crickets”, the noises she is hearing, drowning out the industrial noise pollution, perhaps is just her ears flapping.
    Cheers, G”)


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