DA Sought For Helipad Could See One Helicopter Take Off Or Land Every Nine Minutes At Anna Bay

A helicopter taken flying over the whale watching superhighway at Anna Bay. Photo: Henk Tobbe.

 

AMONG some of the most controversial DA’s currently before Port Stephens Council is the application to create a Helipad at Anna Bay, adjacent to the Anna Bay Lawn Cemetery and Caltex Service Station.

The Tomaree Residents and Ratepayers Association (TRRA) have advised, “The Proponent for the Anna Bay Aircraft Facility has submitted responses to Council’s Further Information Request (FIR) and amended its DA with several new or revised documents.

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“These are now on public exhibition until January 26, 2022.”

However, TRRA does not believe that the revised proposal adequately addresses the concerns raised in the more than 80 objections lodged on the original DA.

“We will argue that it should be refused in this location, which given its proximity to the cemetery is entirely unsuitable for what would clearly be a high use Heliport.”

The DA revision includes a revised site plan and staging, and a reduction in the number of flights to 280 helicopter movements per week ‘if required’ with a maximum of 65 movements on any one day (1 flight = two helicopter movements – a take-off and a landing).

Hours of operation would be 8am-6pm.

65 helicopter movements on a peak day, if evenly spaced, could mean roughly one arrival or departure every nine minutes.

“While Council should consider previous objections as part of the DA assessment, the second public exhibition period provides an opportunity to make further submissions including on the new material, and we encourage objectors to at least tell Council that they don’t accept that the minor changes proposed deal with their concerns.”

New submissions are due by January 26 and should be sent with reference DA2021-387 to [email protected]

Submissions can also be posted directly to Council’s DA Tracker website.

Over 70% of the more than 80 public submissions objected to the proposal due to its proximity to the cemetery including potential impact on those attending graveside services and visiting the cemetery for quiet reflection.

The proponent has accepted ‘mitigation’ recommendations of a new Social Impact Assessment (SIA), an agreement with Council that would restrict helicopters from taking off, landing or flying in the vicinity of the cemetery during graveside services and a weekly service schedule (timetable of flights) would be provided.

Consideration has been given to potentially create an acoustic wall between the cemetery and the Helipad and signage has been added, however, TRRA considers the proposed ‘mitigation’ measures wholly inadequate to address the principal concern about proximity to the cemetery.

They might accommodate formal burial ceremonies but would not address the effect on the frequent and numerous casual visitors to the cemetery, which would become effectively unusable for quiet reflection for much of the time.

40% of submissions addressed noise pollution.

TRRA considers that the use of Australian Noise Exposure Forecast (ANEF) 20 is not appropriate because it’s more applicable to established airports.

Legal decisions on other new NSW helicopter operations have used a lower threshold.

TRRA say that the noise impact of frequent flights on the locality, and particularly on the cemetery, will be unacceptable.

Local residents at the new Sunrise over 55’s residence, Seawinds and the township of Anna Bay would likely be subject to significant increase in noise during the hours of operation.

Council’s Natural Resources Section and National Parks, raised questions about the likely impact on wildlife from helicopter noise and aircraft strike.

The proponent’s revised Flora and Fauna Assessment relies on very limited surveys only on the site itself and recommends ‘mitigation’ measures which are completely impractical and unrealistic, such as pausing operations when fauna are observed.

It is even suggested that the helicopter engines be ‘idled’ to warn wildlife away (prolonging noise impact).

Many National Parks have ‘Fly Neighbourly Agreements’ in place to limit helicopter flight impacts on fauna and park users but this would not seem a practical solution for such a highly used Heliport as is proposed.

“The proponent appears to have dismissed strong objections from the Department of Defence (DoD) about air traffic management issues relating to Williamtown RAAF Base and airport and do not appear to have even had direct contact with them.”

Furthermore, the noise, ecological and air traffic management impact of the Heliport all depend critically on the approach and departure flight paths.

“TRRA is sceptical about the likelihood of flight operations sticking strictly to the proposed south-east corridor, which may well even be impractical in certain wind conditions.”

TRRA are suggesting that members of the public that are considering lodging an objection include factors such as safety, dust, traffic, Worimi heritage, and proximity to a bushfire prone area.

TRRA is arguing that the proposed facility will clearly be a ‘Heliport’ which is a prohibited use on this site which is zoned RU2 – Rural Landscape.

The proponent is relying on a technical/semantic distinction, claiming that it is a ‘private’ Helipad, not open to the public.

“We have questioned whether the proposed scale of the operation (up to 65 movements per day) is consistent with ‘private use’ only by the customers of two local marinas.

“We do not think Council could realistically prevent the facility, once approved, becoming a more generally available public Heliport.

“There is land on the Tomaree peninsula the zoning of which would allow a Heliport.”

This DA has been ‘called up’ to Council and will be determined by the newly elected Councillors at a future meeting.

A public meeting will be held at Anna Bay Lawn Cemetery on Sunday 23 January at 10.30am.

Attendees are advised to bring a chair if required.

Masks and social distancing and COVID-19 safe practices will be adhered to at the public meeting.

 

By Marian SAMPSON

One thought on “DA Sought For Helipad Could See One Helicopter Take Off Or Land Every Nine Minutes At Anna Bay

  1. I am horrified at the thought of a Hellipad being allowed to operate beside the Anna Bay cemetery. My only Son Joshua is buried there and has been for the past 10 years, I and my husband will also be buried there . We chose this cemetery because of the tranquillity and natural bushland, we have always been happy with the way the Council have taken good care and maintained the cemetery even putting in a bench seat for me when I pointed out there wasn’t one down the back area .This seat helped me greatly over the years where I could sit quietly and grieve, I hate to think how much disturbance these Helicopters would cause in such a beautiful peaceful place. So much so I feel strong enough about this that if the Helipad was to go ahead, even as painfully stressful as it would be I would remove my Son’s ashes and find a more suitable place of rest for my Son and in the future my Husband and myself. Kind regards Juanita

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