The State Government’s repeal of the Warnervale Airport (Restrictions) Act 1996 (the WAR Act) has passed in Parliament with the support of Labor.
What does this mean for Central Coast residents and the future of the Porter’s Creek wetlands?
The WAR Act, which was introduced in 1996 by Labor Member for Wyong, Paul Crittenden, to safeguard against Wyong Shire Council’s (WSC) unilateral plans for a major airport on the site, had four essential features: it limited the length of the runway; it imposed a night-time curfew; it allowed for limiting the number of daily flight movements; and, it provided for a mandatory community consultation process before any major changes could be made.
Aero Club CEO, Andrew Smith, has recently reaffirmed the club’s 2018 position: “The existing operations….can be accommodated within the bounds of the Warnervale Airport (Restrictions) Act 1996 and on the existing runway without any expansion on the site.
In addition, it can be achieved with “fly neighbourly” noise abatement procedures – as currently practised.
The Club opposes: any extension of the existing runway; any expansion of the airfield into the Porters Creek Wetlands to the south or surrounding E2 conservation land; and, the introduction of RPT services, jet or heavy turbine aircraft.”
Despite the 1996 enactment of the WAR Act and the Aero Club’s stated position, the Central Coast has seen many plans for an airport expansion becoming the hot topic of debate in Council meetings.
Since 1998, Wyong Shire and Central Coast Councils have together directly spent over $13M on various plans, land acquisitions and runway works at this airport, not including annual operating losses of some $500,000 since 2015, or the disastrous Kiar Ridge land deal.
Why would successive Councils seek to actively circumvent and undermine an act of law?
Why would Councils spend scarce ratepayer dollars on something that is not legally possible?
Critics of airport expansion plans, including the Central Coast Airport Resistance Group, have persistently pointed out that Council’s own studies and reports show that there is no viable economic or business case to support a larger airport.
However, implementation of the Wyong Employment Zone, which incorporates the airport, would deliver tangible and much needed jobs for our region.
A 2013 feasibility study commissioned by the former WSC identified the development of the airport as the least favourable option.
It recommended either maintaining the existing ALA or the sale of the airport land for industrial use as the options with the greatest value to the Council and the community.
Why are crucial local employment opportunities being relegated to second place?
In view of this situation, it is difficult for Central Coast residents to follow the administrator’s logic in proposing a Special Rate Variation of up to 15 percent on the one hand and being willing to indefinitely absorb an annual $500,000 operating loss incurred by the airport on the other.
The residents of the Central Coast have been given multiple assurances that their interests will be adequately protected in the absence of the Warnervale Airport (Restrictions) Act but with so many questions remaining, we are left to our own conclusions.
Email, Mar 1
Wolfgang Koerner, Point Clare