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Mixed Bag At Flight Paths Roundtable

Sunshine Coast Council acknowledges there were many different views expressed by participants at the Round Table meeting held on Friday to discuss the proposed flight paths for the new runway under construction at the Sunshine Coast Airport.

Deputy Mayor Cr Tim Dwyer said council had no problem with people expressing alternative views and objecting to what was proposed, however that was completely different to misrepresenting what was actually discussed at the meeting.

“The comments attributed to Ms Maria Suarez from the Flight Path Forum in the Sunshine Coast Daily that her group had alternative flight paths to present at Friday's meeting would be news to anyone who was in that room on Friday,” Cr Dwyer said.

“The representatives of the Flight Path Forum were asked repeatedly to table any alternative flight path solutions they had so they could be discussed.

“Ms Suarez and the other Flight Path Forum representatives adamantly refused to do so and, in fact, stated on more than one occasion that they did not have alternative flight paths to table.

“This is notwithstanding their previous public statements on 21 and 22 June that they have alternative flight paths that had been designed on their behalf by three pilots.

“At no time in the meeting did Flight Path Forum members ever indicate that they had been advised by Airservices Australia that their proposals could not be considered.

“Given everyone involved in this matter was in the room, the members of the Flight Path Forum were given every opportunity to place any issues and any alternative flight path solutions on the table.

“What was clear is that Flight Path Forum did not want to table any alternative flight paths because they knew it would just result in shifting aircraft over other people’s homes.

“In both the presentations put forward by council and Airservices Australia, there were alternative flight path options presented and an outline of why they were not considered viable.

“Airservices Australia made it clear this can be for a number of reasons including safety, terrain, populated areas and the fact that the Sunshine Coast airspace is close to, and intersects with, the airspace and flight paths for the Brisbane Airport and Amberley Air Base.

“Safety is of course, the number one and over-riding priority for Airservices Australia – as you would expect it should be.

“What was also made very clear is that the airspace over the Sunshine Coast is very constrained for all of these reasons and hence, there are not a lot of viable alternative options.

“However, Airservices Australia presented at least three alternatives including a western route flight path that had been suggested in the community feedback period.

“Even though this western route flight path alternative was not consistent with the EIS, Airservices Australia outlined they had examined the option and that it was not considered viable because of terrain and its impacts on the airspace for the Brisbane basin.”

Cr Dwyer also pointed out that comments attributed to Mayor Tony Wellington from Noosa Shire Council would seem to suggest he either wasn’t in the room on Friday or wasn’t paying attention.

“To suggest there were “passing references to alternative flight paths but no one present seems able to outline the range of flight paths considered and rejected” is ridiculous,” Cr Dwyer said.

“Both council and Airservices Australia included alternative flight paths in their presentations and outlined the reasons why they were not progressed.

“I can only assume that Cr Wellington’s [Noosa Mayor Tony Wellington] comments about “lengthy and unnecessary presentations by council and Airservices Australia” weren’t to his liking because they comprehensively demonstrated the processes both organisations have followed and expose the Noosa Shire Council’s complete failure to represent the interests of their community during the consultation on the EIS in 2014 and 2015.

“When someone questions the need for the facts, then you seriously have to question their motives.

“Cr Wellington is clearly uncomfortable that his predecessor, Noel Playford, wrote to Sunshine Coast Council in November 2015 and advised that Noosa Council would not be making submissions on the EIS or the AEIS.

“Noosa Shire Council made a decision in 2014 and 2015 not to get involved in the EIS process but did state in Mr Playford’s letter, “we are encouraging our community to have their say on the proposal before 30 November 2015” and further in Mr Playford’s letter, “We are currently promoting the issue in our community via our usual media channels and encouraging our community to have their say on the proposed airport expansion”.

“I wonder what effort was really made to promote this to the Noosa community by their Council, when Cr Wellington is on record as saying the airport expansion project was just a “hypothetical”.

“Now – nine months out from council elections – Cr Wellington wants to opt in and appear to be the champion for his community’s interests.

“I think most people would see the full picture, not just the recent protestations.

“Cr Wellington has expressed his local knowledge of Noosa with his comments about, “the churn of residents” in his Shire. Knowing full well about this churn, why not put this local knowledge to good use and provide ongoing information to residents about the airport project, rather than now wanting to blame others.

“I make the point again that the proposed flight paths were published in the EIS, and have been available for everyone to consider since 2014. The proposal informed the current flight paths designed by Airservices Australia and have been in the public domain for nearly five years.

“So far, no alternative solutions by either the Flight Path Forum or Noosa Shire Council have been shared with the general public.”

A Sunshine Coast Council spokesperson said "Noosa Shire Council Mayor Tony Wellington’s comments to the Sunshine Coast Daily on 8 July 2019 that Sunshine Coast Council and Airservices Australia failed to advertise the availability of proposed flight paths for consultation purposes earlier this year in Noosa News, Noosa Today and the Cooroy Rag, are incorrect".  

"Paid advertisements were placed in an extensive range of Sunshine Coast newspapers by both Airservices Australia and Sunshine Coast Council.

"Council’s advertisements were published in the three publications identified above, as part of the public consultation period that was conducted between 20 March and 30 April this year" the statement ended.  

By Michelle Price