Airservices Australia admits it did not ‘consult sufficiently’ over new Hobart flight paths
Airservices Australia has admitted bungling the consultation process for a new Hobart arrival flight path over Dunalley, saying it was unaware the area was still recovering from the 2013 bushfires.
There’s growing anger about the decision to introduce a singular flight path into Hobart airport and on Saturday, more than 100 people attended an information session held by the Federal Government-owned company to demand answers.
Previously, planes flying in and out of Hobart were dispersed over a number of flight paths but now they fly over Copping, Boomer Bay, Dunalley and Connelly’s Marsh, before turning into the airport.
Airservices Australia southern operations manager Steve Clarke said the increase in the number of planes flying into the state and the availability of new technology meant a singular route was necessary.
“What we are doing is making it safer, because it is far more predictable and less complex, there is less air traffic controller intervention in the process,” he said.
Residents at the meeting grilled Airservices staff, demanding to know why the change had been imposed on them without consultation.
Mr Clarke, who said the change would not result in air traffic control job cuts, added that Airservices Australia would review its internal procedures.
“I am here to acknowledge that we didn’t consult sufficiently on these changes,” he said.
“I can see that it’s a close-knit community. They’ve been through some issues that we weren’t aware of in terms of bushfire and other things. I have certainly heard their concerns.”
Residents voiced concerns about the effect plane noise would have on tourism.
Tom Gray is starting a new business in the area but is considering pulling the pin because of the plan.
“No-one is going to want to get married under a flight path,” he said.
“When you are trying to promote Tasmania’s beauty, with its views, produce and serenity, I feel this will be majorly interrupted under 30 plus planes a day.”
Resident David Patman obtained Airservices Australia documents under Freedom of Information laws.
He said they showed a discrepancy between what the company knew and what it wanted to say publicly.
The environmental assessment for the Hobart Airport flight path plan said there would be newly overflown areas, and recommended stakeholder engagement.
“The proposed changes may result in visual change to aircraft tracking and/or noise levels,” the assessment said.
In contrast, a document containing communications briefing notes repeatedly instructed the company to tell Hobart Airport, Federal MPs, and residents that “the proposed flight paths will not overfly new residents”.
Mr Patman said he was considering lodging a complaint against Airservices Australia with the Commonwealth ombudsman.
“It really concerns me that they have misled and provided false information in order to get this through,” he said.
“The first we heard of it was 30 planes flying overhead a day.”
Resident Rachel Deane said the community was still getting back on its feet after 2013 Dunalley bushfires.
“We are only just starting to recover from that, emotionally and physically and to have this imposed on us is like insult to injury,” she said.
“We don’t want to live under a super highway.”
Airservices Australia is accepting feedback on alternative flight path proposals until November 19.