Archerfield Airport consultation 1st meeting: Planned changes and community concerns
On 2nd November 2011, WTSAG representatives attended the Archerfield Airport Community Aviation Consultation Group meeting convened for what has been planned to be the first of three consultative meetings. The consultative group included representatives of groups with close ties to the airport, political representatives, representatives of known community groups such as WTSAG, and a few individual residents who had a history of being concerned about the airport or who had positions (such as Council librarian) enabling them to be barometers for community concerns about the airport.
CHANGES PROPOSED AT ARCHERFIELD
Two major physical changes are envisaged at Archerfield.
- Re-alignment of grass (secondary) runways
- Opening of an extra 5 ha area for development as a consequence of the relocation of runways
The reasons for the planned changes are to
- Reduce the grass runways’ vulnerability to flooding (11% of the time the grass runways are out of service, and 27% of that time it is because of rain)
- Allow development of the freed-up land to build dormitories for student pilots (and possibly other activities)
- Open the possibility of commercial flights (smallish planes to carry miners to the fields, for example)
The realignment will have a community impact because the flight paths will differ from the existing ones. Although there was a map showing the previous and proposed runways, it was difficult to see just what impact those changes would have on the surrounding area. During the consultation process we need to understand those impacts more clearly.
CONCERNS EXPRESSED AT THE MEETING
Residents were worried that
- Earthworks and construction may impact future flooding of surrounding houses
- The noise levels are likely to cause many problems for schoolchildren and residents. The issue of what sorts of planes would be used was discussed, and some community members said that jets were less noisy than propeller planes. (Propeller planes are in the majority.) The Council librarian and a school representative were profoundly concerned about the noise and effect on schoolchildren.
With respect to noise, the terms of reference include that Archerfield will ensure that ‘effective complaints handling procedures are in place’. However, a couple of community members observed that even now they unable to elicit any response when they phone about airplane noise and that there will be worse noise after the change.(Incidentally, according to legislation, ‘a significant community impact’ is a trigger for a master plan to be put forward, but noise is not a trigger. Conflicts with local planning can trigger a plan. High rise developments that may interfere with flight paths are a trigger for a plan. But not noise.) With respect to flooding, there was no answer to the possible impact on the surrounding area.
Despite the suggestion that the Archerfield plan will not necessarily increase the number of flight movements a day, residents were concerned as the airport is keeping its options open for ‘aeronautical’ opportunities, and the airport is expected to grow. (Further changes will trigger another master plan to be considered by the community and assessed by government.)
OUR MAIN CONCERNS
- The consultative committee thus far is not functioning as ‘a group’ but as a collection of individuals (this may change during the next two meetings). It might be useful for the consultative group to consider whether subgroups within it should address particular issues and then report back to the overall committee or whether the group should participate in planning a larger public consultation. The group presently is not so much a working group as a group context in which individuals can ask questions or make comments.
- The community itself is not being directly ‘consulted’. There is an attempt to constrain the consultation by confining it to a ‘representative body’ rather than allowing any opportunity for all concerned citizens in the community to meet for a discussion of what will happen and what it means. Steve Griffiths, Councillor from Moorooka, was continually requesting a public meeting for local residents; but this was being refused. The consultation was expected to be just 'by committee' through this consultative group. A concession was made to allow other individuals to join the consultation, but preferably as 'representatives' of other groups and certainly with the sponsorship of a current member and permission in advance to speak. While the consultative process has been planned very carefully, we strongly agree with Griffiths and feel that there should be more public information and a more free-wheeling public meeting to complement the consultative committee's work so that residents in the immediate area can be involved.
- The potential impacts on the community need to be detailed in easily comprehensible and physically demonstrable ways. It is not clear to us how the community will be affected by the change to the direction of the runways, commercial flights, or the development of dormitories in the future, either in terms of noise or flooding or any other impact.
- It will be important to specify the ways in which the consultative committee or the community can actually influence the Archerfield decision. The terms of reference suggest that the consultation process is to allow for 'interaction' between the community and Archerfield, but there is no clear indication of how the community can affect the Archerfield plans. While the terms of reference for the consultative group call for ‘suggestions on aircraft noise and environmental issues’ to be made to ‘responsible authorities’ for procedures to be set in place ‘where applicable’, we did not get a strong feeling that much can or will be done.
Later discussion with the President of WTSAG raised the question of whether the Archerfield consultation meets the standards of best practice consultation as defined by the core values of the International Association for Public Participation (http://www.iap2.org.au/resources/core-values/iap2-core-values). While some (but not all) of the core values are expressed in relation to the consultative group itself, each IAP2 core value statement begins with reference to the “Public . . . “. Consulting via committee is not the same as consulting the public. Our view is that some arrangement needs to be made to allow the general public – the community likely to be affected by the change – to have direct involvement.