Airport response from Council includes a name change

Photo: Central Coast Aero ClubPhoto: Central Coast Aero Club

Central Coast Airport at Warnervale has been renamed as the Warnervale Aircraft Landing Area (ALA), in response to a proposed repeal of the Warnervale Airport Restrictions (WAR) Act.

The NSW Government recently confirmed that it would repeal the WAR Act following an independent review that generated more than 900 public submissions with 75 percent supporting the repeal.

In response, Council reaffirmed its ownership and management of the Warnervale ALA and confirmed the runway length would remain at 1200m with no further extensions.

Current maintenance works at the ALA will continue but no new works will be permitted that expand its operations.

Council will actively seek to generate employment opportunities on lands adjacent to the landing strip with a focus on health, food, waste, renewable energy and manufacturing sectors.

Council said it was actively seeking to address the safety issue around the height of the trees on approach to the landing strip, but it was required to act lawfully to manage the trees.

CEO, Gary Murphy, will report back to Council on what actions and legal mechanisms are available to enable the public release of the details of a confidential settlement between Council and Amphibian Aerospace Industries Pty Ltd (AAI).

The new Central Coast Council, in one of its first decisions, extinguished a contract made by the former Wyong Council with the AAI, and decided to change directions regarding the future of the airport.

A workshop will now be held, by the end of the November, for Councillors to discuss the management and operation of the site and to allow Central Coast Aero Club, which uses the facility, clarity on its ongoing operation and contract, which comes up for renewal in 2021.

Andrew Smith, General Manager of the Central Coast Aero Club, addressed the council at the public forum before the meeting.

He said the State Minister for Planning, Rob Stokes, had noted after the review that an airport operational plan was essential.

“We would be very happy to assist Council to develop and implement such a plan in whatever capacity Council feels is appropriate.

“We look forward to working closely with Council over the long term and the finalisation of our new agreement with Council as a solid first step in this process.”

The club is meeting with Council on Monday, August 17, to resolve the matter of trimming vegetation at either end of the landing strip which is a safety hazard for pilots.

The State Government’s WAR Act review found that historically, Council and individual Councillors had mooted a variety of ideas related to the airport and aviation opportunities.

The review did not clarify whether it was the former Wyong Council that it was referring to but it said that several of the ideas were idealistic and unfeasible because of existing airport constraints including procedural approvals, the length of the runway, and surrounding topography and environmental conditions.

“These ideas were also not translated into planning proposals and appear to have been made public prior to a business case and environmental assessments,” the review stated.

“This legacy is the root cause of much distrust, which Review consultation indicates continues to persist.”

The reviewers said the inherent limitations of the site should be highlighted for all stakeholders.

They noted that many stakeholders were still of the impression that expansion of the airport was feasible, when it was actually highly constrained by both its physical characteristics and legislative requirements.

“The maximum runway length of 1,200m is suitable and appropriate from an aviation perspective for the type of operations that are realistically able to use Warnervale ALA i.e. maximum 5,700kgs,” the report said.

“Taking into account the existing site boundaries and surrounding topography, environmental characteristics and land uses, it is hard to envisage how the runway could be lengthened.”

The Reviewers recommended that the tree height be reduced as a matter of urgency.

They said it was unrelated to the Review Terms of Reference, but the team identified a real safety issue resulting from the trees at the northern end of the aerodrome, along Sparks Rd, intruding into the Obstacle Limitation Surface of the runway.

The team suggested that Council clarify its position in relation to the airport and its future use and operations, including by means of robust environmental, social, economic and technical assessments.

It said a business plan and operations plan for the airport should be produced and Council’s position in relation to renewal of the license for the aero club should also be made public.

Merilyn Vale