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Monday, 25 October 2010
Page: 1339

Mr KELVIN THOMSON (5:47 PM) —I congratulate the member for McPherson on her first speech and wish her every success in making the most of the opportunities that arise from election to this place. As I was saying before proceedings were suspended last week on the Airports Amendment Bill 2010, the proposed upgrading of the emergency services base at Essendon airport did not raise many eyebrows back in 2008. This was mainly because the services had been historically based along the western perimeter on the Tullamarine Freeway side of the airport well away from residential back fences along the Strathmore perimeter. The draft master plan had no detail on exactly where the new hangars and base would be situated on the airport. It was not until concrete slabs and metal frames started to be erected in the vicinity of Strathaird Street and Mascoma Street in Strathmore that local residents became aware of a new building being constructed literally over their back fence. Upon making relevant inquiries, I was advised this was the new location for the new emergency services air wing. So a major new aviation facility, which the Victorian government has invested over $20 million into constructing, has been built and is now in operation around the clock only metres away from residential homes.

Let me make it clear that people are not opposed to providing up-to-date facilities for our emergency service personnel. They do a fantastic job under a great deal of pressure. What people are opposed to is having no say or right of appeal on the biggest aviation hangar ever being constructed at Essendon airport being built close to their backyards. This new hangar could easily have been constructed away from residential homes, and the decision by airport management to relocate the new hangar to the current site was a very poor one indeed. I have requested a meeting with representatives from the emergency service air wing to discuss the impact of aircraft noise and disturbances on local residents.

Residents have also raised concern with me over the construction and operation of a car-holding and predelivery facility along the airport’s eastern perimeter. Residents were given a general overview of this proposal at the March 2007 public meeting and, as I reported to the House in March 2007, were advised that landscaping works would be undertaken to help minimise the facility’s effect on local amenity and noise. Again, as with the emergency services hangar, there were no specific plans or proposals put out for public comment and consideration. Residents now have a fully operational car-holding facility on their doorstep which they had no say in, and no landscaping works have taken place as initially airport management indicated would happen. Residents have reported noise and disturbances from the facility at very early and late hours from freight and delivery vehicles. Some residents have also reported that excessive light spillage takes place during the night into their properties because of the way lights face the streetscape. These are just a couple of examples of the many issues residents could have provided invaluable feedback on regarding this facility had an effective planning process been in place at the time of the building’s design.

The Australia Post mail-sorting facility is also a significant building which has been constructed close to residential homes along the eastern perimeter. The initial plans regarding this facility were generally outlined by airport management at the 2007 public meetings, but again residents had no formal process to have a say in the building’s final design. Residents have reported that the late night and early morning operating hours generate noise. The facility has a path which connects to Mascoma Street to allow for postie motorbike access to and from the facility. Residents have reported to me that the building’s colour and design do not fit in with the local streetscape and that, despite their request for landscaping around the Australia Post facility to help it better integrate into the existing built community, it has not occurred.

Residents were very supportive of the idea of landscaping works along the eastern perimeter. This was a suggestion put forward at the 2007 public meetings and an idea that I have supported in my representations to airport management and in various formal submissions. The fact is that there have been beautification and landscaping works undertaken throughout the commercial precincts—English Street and the western perimeter. These works have helped lift the look and feel of the site through the installation of young trees, plants and shrubs. However, we have not had this along the residential eastern perimeter, and management state that such work would attract birds and affect flights. It seems odd that you can have landscaping works being carried out throughout the commercial precincts without having a similar effect. I think that residents deserve the landscaping work they have been requesting and were promised back in 2007.

During the last master plan process, Essendon Airport proposed and has since constructed a new entrance to the north of the site—the Wirraway Road entrance from the Tullamarine Freeway. This entrance was constructed between five and seven metres high above the ground. It was constructed with no sound barriers. Residents living in the immediate vicinity of this entrance, in Palagia Court and other surrounding streets, have expressed to me great concern that this new connection from the freeway has dramatically increased the noise levels in the area, and they would like noise walls installed. There is currently a 30- to 50-metre gap between the end of the nearest noise walls and this new entrance. I do not think it is too much to ask for the noise walls to be simply extended. I have made numerous representations to the Victorian Minister for Roads and Ports on this issue, and I am now working with local resident Denis James to help the noise walls campaign. The point is, if residents had had adequate notification and opportunity to comment on the proposed new entrance at the time, airport management and VicRoads would have been much more aware that residents wanted the installation of noise walls.

The Essendon Airport Noise Management Working Group, which was established by the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government following the approval of the master plan in 2008, presented a report to the minister which contained 16 recommendations on how to better manage and monitor noise and airport related issues. A couple of those issues related to a proposed shortening of the north-south runway, investigating the impacts on the community and analysing and assessing the impacts of closing the entire north-south runway. I believe that residents to the east and west of the airport must not be adversely affected by this possible change. I welcome the fact that this bill will formalise that community consultation must take place on any significant alterations to airport runways that change flight paths.

Local residents have to live with developments in their neighbourhoods for a lifetime. It is important that their views are sought and adhered to during the planning of any new development on Essendon Airport land. The changes to the act to ensure the community is better consulted on proposed airport developments are supported by me. Bringing the airport planning and master plan process into line with local and state planning guidelines will help achieve this and help make Essendon Airport a better neighbour. I commend the bill to the House.