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Thursday, 27 March 2014
Page: 3439


Ms O'NEIL (Hotham) (16:37): I rise to make a statement on behalf of Dingley Village residents in relation to Moorabbin Airport. Dingley Village is a tight-knit community with great schools and active community groups in the south-east corner of my electorate of Hotham. It is a place where people look after each other's kids and keep an eye out for their neighbours. It is a suburb built in the shadow of Moorabbin Airport, and tonight I want to report to the House on some issues of concern that have been raised with me.

By and large, Dingley Village residents were attracted to live in this area because of its semi-rural character. Moorabbin Airport is in one of Melbourne's green wedges, an area we call the lungs of the south-east. When the airport opened in the 1940s, on 294 hectares of crown land, the area was full of market gardens, florists and dairy farms. Since then, Moorabbin Airport has become the third busiest airport in Australia by flight movements—250,000 movements in and out of the airport each year—and the busiest airport in Australia for pilot training. The use of that land has fundamentally changed. Instead of public land being used for the public benefit, the airport is becoming a giant retail complex operated by the one of the largest commercial companies in Australia.

Making a statement today is necessary because of some very recent developments. Last year, the owner of Moorabbin Airport proposed to build a huge 12,000-square-metre Westfarmers retail space. Dingley Village has its own shopping centre and its own supermarket. The residents tell me that although they would like to see that centre upgraded it is still the heart and soul of their local community. Kingston Council has predicted that the Westfarmers development could cause a drop in trade of 46 per cent in these local shops. There are already 20 empty shops. The development of a retail space at the airport will make the existing local shopping centre unviable. That is why many Dingley Village residents were relieved when, under the previous government, the then Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, the member for Grayndler, decided to refuse the proposal.

Last September, as we know, a new government was elected and the member for Wide Bay has taken over with quite a different approach. We have been told that the minister has instructed Commonwealth lawyers to tone down their objection to the retail development at Moorabbin Airport. Dingley Village Community Association, the main community group operating in this suburb, asked to be joined as a party to the hearing—a request I strongly supported—into whether the proposal should be approved. Minister Truss has taken the opposite view, and instructed his lawyers to oppose the DVCA, the most significant local community group in the area, being joined to the hearing. Further, the Minister will not meet with me or acknowledge my letters. The shadow attorney-general—the member for Isaacs, who is just next door to me—and I have both written to the minister asking to meet with him to put forward the views of local residents. It was a pretty basic request stemming from my rights as a member of parliament. But, imagine, the minister refuses to meet with a local member who simply wants to put forward the views of local residents.

The good news is that we will have another opportunity to engage in consultation soon. In 2015, the minister will have to sign off on the next airport master plan. To ensure I properly understood the views of my local community, I recently surveyed Dingley residents to gauge their opinions. What I found was that most residents do not support more retail development at the airport. In addition, most do not support more development in the green wedge. The other issue the survey covered was aircraft noise, which negatively impacts on many of these residents on a daily basis. Most residents said that aircraft noise was worst in the late evening, but only 15 per cent have ever lodged a formal complaint, with many telling me that there was no point in doing so because they felt it would go unacknowledged.

Despite the substantial changes and the substantial increase in the size of the suburbs surrounding the airport since the airport was established, aircraft movements have remain uncapped—the sky is the limit. There are 250,000 movements per annum, two-thirds of which are related to pilot training. Think of the frustration that many of these residents must experience. The 2010 master plan projects that aircraft movements will double by 2029. That will be half a million movements a year. This is an airport that is in the middle of suburban Melbourne. That is why it is critical that the minister be aware of community concerns before he signs off on the next master plan. Dingley Village residents, who experience thousands of aircraft movements above their area each day, deserve to be heard. I return to the fundamental question: is the public land of Moorabbin Airport being used for public benefit? As a local member, I will continue to fight to have the voices of my constituents heard in decisions that so profoundly affect their local area.