A confidential master plan for the future expansion of the Central Coast Airport at Warnervale, will be put on public exhibition, if the new Central Coast Council decides to proceed with it, according to Central Coast Mayor, Clr Jane Smith.
Clr Smith called for an authorised proactive release of information relating to the future of the Wyong Economic Zone, including Central Coast Airport, in a Mayoral Minute at the October 23 ordinary Council meeting.
The proactive release of previously confidential documents was intended to be made under Section 7 of the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009.
During the debate of the Mayoral Minute, several attempts were made by various Councillors to ensure that the plans for the future development of the area were kept out of the public domain.
Following the meeting, Clr Smith said: “I am confident that the staff will provide a briefing that looks at long term plans for that area.
“The purpose of the briefing is to then decide whether they [the Councillors] want to proceed with that master plan or not.
“If they decide to proceed, the intention is that it goes out on public exhibition,” she said.
In speaking in favour of the Mayoral Minute at the October 23 meeting, Clr Smith said she noted “it would be appropriate for the new Council to review and reconsider direction, in light of key strategic planning documents”.
Clr Doug Vincent rose to suggest an amendment in support of moves to place more information about the future of the airport in the public domain.
“There is a master plan for this site and I can’t see the master plan in the wording, so I would like to see if we can include that the master plan needs to be released to enable Council to assess its merit,” Clr Vincent said.
Even though the wording of the Mayoral Minute was amended in an effort to address Clr Vincent’s concerns he, and several other Councillors, remained unconvinced.
“Is the master plan going to be included in the report, because that is what I am looking for?
“It says draft master plan, but my understanding is there is a master plan, and hasn’t that master plan gone before the Administrator?
“I explicitly want it there that the master plan is released.
“We have been given an undertaking by staff that master plan will be included in the report… so the full master plan will be included in the report?
Clr Smith responded “that is my understanding”.
Central Coast Council’s Chief Counsel, Mr Brian Glendenning, said: “My understanding is …the report that will come to the last meeting [of Council for the year] will have, for the Councillors, a copy of the draft masterplan, including the full staging, putting on record that the report will contain it.
Clr Vincent also asked for the suspension of all works on the airport indefinitely, pending the outcome of the briefing to Council.
Clr Smith did not accept the amendment.
She said the intent was that all contracts and works would be suspended until the briefing, for which a date has not yet been set.
Clr Louise Greenaway also called for clarification of the intent of the Minute by asking for an end date for documents to be made available.
Clr Troy Marquart said he was concerned that it was the second Council meeting in a row where there had been business put forward “quite late” by the Mayor, and he questioned whether it was necessary to call for a halt to all works.
Mr Bell said that the only work under way at the airport was “general maintenance”.
However, later in the debate, Clr Greenaway said she had been given a list of seven consultants that provide services to Council in relation to the airport, “but the information is confidential, so I cannot state it at a public meeting,” she said.
Deputy Mayor, Clr Chris Holstein, called for the report on any documents to be released to be “a confidential report to council on matters to be publicly disclosed”.
Clr Smith refused to accept that amendment.
Clr Holstein said there was usually a good reason why documents were kept confidential and he believed the Mayoral Minute “just leaves us a little bit open there”.
Clr Bruce McLachlan said he was concerned that the content of the Mayoral Minute made the Council appear to be “anti-progress”.
Clr McLachlan then moved an amendment to strike out reference to the suspension of works at the airport, which Clr Marquart seconded.
Speaking against the amendment, Clr Vincent said: “There are plenty of third parties out there who want a hold put on this until there is an understanding of the master plan.
“There is nothing saying in here that we are going to shut down what is already contracted…it sends a message that we want to have a look at this,” he said.
“There are 35,000 people whose lives are going to be affected, they are all worried that they are going to get a jet airport in their backyard.”
Clr McLachlan said he was well aware of sentiment towards the airport but “this is the second meeting now where we are putting stop work orders and we are not a union movement, it is the wrong message that we are sending to the community, especially from a brand new Council.
The amendment was lost but was supported by Clrs Marquart, Gale Collins, Pilon, McLachlan and Burke.
Clr Kyle MacGregor then spoke in favour of the Mayoral Minute.
“There is an Act of Parliament that precludes this from being used as a jet airport, but potentially millions of dollars have already been spent,” Clr MacGregor said.
Clr Vincent said: “This is long overdue and hopefully the community will get to understand what is happening at the Warnervale airport.
“We have got staff out there doing work on the fourth airport site when they could be out there doing good planning, good work for the community, on something that is going to happen,” he said.
The Mayoral Minute was adopted by the Council, with all voting in favour except Clrs Marquart and Gale Collins, who abstained.
In 1996, following community concerns about the development of Warnervale Airport (as it was then named), the NSW Parliament passed the Warnervale Airport (Restrictions) Act 1996 (WAR Act), to restrict certain activities and development at the Warnervale Airport.
Subsequently, the airport land was included in the Warnervale Economic Zone (WEZ) for industrial development.
The site is at the upper catchment of Porters Creek Wetland, the largest freshwater wetland on the Central Coast.
Much of Porters Creek wetland is identified as a SEPP14 wetland, with the north east areas, including much of the location of WEZ, described as a “Wetland Management Area” in Chapter 3.10 of Wyong Shire Development Control Plan 2013.
In early 2015, Wyong Council started planning for a Regional Airport at Warnervale, despite the site being subject to the WAR Act.
In May 2015, the former Wyong Council applied to the then NSW Minister for Planning to have the WAR Act repealed.
That Minister initiated a review of the WAR Act.
In August, the current Minister for Planning refused that request.
On October 28, 2015, the former Wyong Council resolved to proceed with the Warnervale Airport development and adopted a masterplan.
That 2015 masterplan has never been out on public exhibition.
Council has spent funds to clear native vegetation and build assets such as roads, runways, buildings, a flood levee, fencing and security cameras in and around the Airport.
In addition, an Airport Manager was employed, and expressions of interest called to develop the airport.
There are also substantial other expenses such as planning, advertising, staff time and legal and planning consultants, according to Clr Smith’s Mayoral Minute.
“Key Planning documents do not provide for an airport, including the Central Coast Regional Plan 2016 prepared by the NSW Government.
“Given that the proposed regional airport is not included in key planning documents and the State Government’s recent decision to retain the WAR Act, it is appropriate for Council to re-consider the future direction of this site in consultation with the community.”
A report will be provided to the ordinary meeting of the Council on November 27 on the draft Masterplan for the Central Coast Airport.
All works on the Central Coast Airport have been suspended until that date.
Agenda item 2.1, Oct 23
Meeting notes, Oct 21
Central Coast Council ordinary meeting
Interview, Nov 1
Jane Smith, Central Coast Council
Jackie Pearson, journalist