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Flight Path Forum Disputes Claims Made by Council

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Airservices Australia (ASA) has confirmed no opportunity exists to consider New Flight Path Options.

Last Friday FPF attended a meeting hosted by Airservices Australia (ASA) that included MP’s, Noosa Council, Sunshine Coast Airport and the late inclusion of Sunshine Coast Council.

The Aircraft Noise Ombudsman was in attendance as an observer. The meeting was confirmed by Airservices as being a pre-document release briefing, similar to two previous meetings attended by FPF.

This was not a Stakeholder Engagement Panel. ASA were not asking various stakeholders including FPF, Noosa Council, State Members, SCC or SCA for their input on flight path design nor was there any discussion about decisions yet to be made.

This was a presentation of information where stakeholders had the opportunity to ask some questions about the information being presented. The meeting was time constrained which severely limited the opportunity for questions.

It is unfortunate that a late change to the agenda saw a substantial portion of the meeting taken over by a long presentation from SCC. Ross Ullman, SCC Runway Expansion Project Director, made an overly long presentation that did not deal with the matter at hand i.e. ASA’s handling and consideration of feedback and their proposed responses.

It was based around the EIS and AEIS and focused on what was done, and when, in terms of community consultation during that period. FPF asked SCC what their measure of success was in defining the outcome of the community consultation.

Their disappointing reply was that SCC’s measure of success was they had met all regulatory requirements, rather than the obvious - that communities were well informed and engaged post consultation.

Community hopes and expectations were raised about what could be achieved at the meeting.ASA made it very clear that only alternative flight path suggestions submitted during the consultation period would be considered, and only if they fell in line with the Sunshine Coast Council (SCC) EIS document.

The opportunity to alter flight paths at Friday’s meeting did not actually exist according to ASA.

FPF is aware that some members of the community did have suggestions for alternative flight paths but FPF do not believe it is their job, as a community organization, to undertake the work of Airservices and design flight paths that have the least possible impact on populated and environmentally sensitive and protected areas.

The poor consultation process by stakeholders has left communities uniformed and very concerned. FPF represents 11 community groups from across the Sunshine Coast Council region and the Noosa region.

The SCC and ASA community consultation conducted recently demonstrates a lack of commitment to and acknowledgement of communities affected by the proposed flight paths.

ASA have acknowledged that they did not undertake any thorough assessments to determine that the SCC EIS concept was one that delivered the least environmental and community impact. ASA has a statutory requirement to develop safe flight paths with the minimum of impact on communities and the environment.

Some alternative flight paths that were submitted during the community consultation period in 2019 were displayed on screen and indicated a number of designs as were presented by pilots at public meetings and online through feedback process, most of which included a western approach.

All flight paths outside of the EIS “swathe” were effectively dismissed for the purposes of ASA’s current flight path approvals process. ASA also commented that some would also have been dismissed for ‘operational reasons’ even if they had been fully investigated, but these comments lacked any detail.

ASA said that one design which depicted a flight path extending from the primary flight route high over the coast to the north may be considered for future change despite falling outside the EIS corridor. However, some of the suggested changes by ASA do fall outside the EIS “swathe”.

ASA’s criteria for decision making is far from clear. FPF believes administrative convenience is being prioritised and their main objective is clear – to avoid any additional environmental and community impact assessments.

SCC hired, what they call, internationally renowned experts to design the flight paths but did not disclose who these experts are and the extent to which they were involved in flight path development.

It stands to reason that these "experts" would have been directed by their employer, the Sunshine Coast Council, where to place these flight paths. Flight paths were designed to track over Noosa Shire, and only the very Northern tip of the Sunshine Council area.

It should be pointed out that Noosa Shire never requested an expansion of the airport, never provided financial support of the airport, in fact had nothing to do with the new runway, but finds its quiet communities in the impact zone of proposed flight paths of ultimately up to 50 low flying aircraft per day, with no night time curfew.

SCC now sees fit to blame Noosa Shire Council for not informing its’ own residents, yet this was an SCC/ ASA project and the statutory responsibility to consult with communities was theirs.

SCC has been keen to promote the project and engage the community about the benefits– but it failed in its responsibility to inform those affected by negative impacts. The SCC noise tool, designed to educate residents about potential noise impacts, shows inconsistencies with the printed information distributed by ASA.

The noise tool, available online, was not updated with new modelling inputs ahead of ASA’s 2019 consultation.

FPF looks forward to continuing talks with ASA this week, and supports the motion put forward by Noosa Council Mayor Tony Wellington for the formation an independently chaired true Stakeholder Engagement Panel to address the many issues related to the flight paths and the damaging, permanent and compounding impacts that communities are facing.

FPF will continue to push for a solution to the problem facing communities, the lack of consistent and reliable up to date information, adequate impact assessments and comprehensive consultation.

FPF are astounded that within a matter of just a few weeks, with the help of volunteers armed with nothing but leaflets and a can-do attitude, they have managed to raise such a groundswell of community awareness on this issue. Something that Sunshine Coast Council and Airservices, with big budgets and paid employees, failed to do in the last five years with their ‘extensive community engagement’ program.

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