After $100,000 in environmental reports and six years, airport trees are being trimmed

Trees are being trimmed for the safety of pilots

After years of controversy, tree trimming at the approach to the runway at Central Coast Airport at Warnervale has begun.

The work is expected to be complete in about a month.

A Central Coast Council spokesperson said that as part of the general maintenance of Warnervale Airport, Council has engaged contractors to undertake trimming of trees that were intruding into a safe approach for aircraft take-off and landing.

“These works are permissible and have had all required environmental assessments prior to commencing,” the spokesperson said.

Manager of Central Coast Aero Club, Andrew Smith, said that this should then remove the displacement from the northern end, giving us at least 200m more usable runway, and importantly, allow for aero-medical flights to return to Warnervale.

“The tree lines on the approaches to the airport were historically kept trimmed to the height of the powerlines on Sparks Rd, which ensured that they stayed below the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) guidelines.

“They now stand well over twice the height of the transmission lines,” Smith said.

“The Club raised this as a significant safety concern with Council from 2015.

“Council staff agreed, and the tree lines were listed as a significant ongoing safety hazard in Council/Aero Club meeting Minutes every month from 2016.

“In 2017, Council agreed to have the issue attended to, but when the issue was presented to councillors, it was decided that detailed biodiversity and ecological reports would be required to find the correct pathway to trim the trees.

“Council decided to continue with the quoted $100,000 in environmental reports, which took well over two years.

“Additionally, to guard against liability, Council shortened the available runway length drastically, from the full 1,196m, to only 850 metres in one direction, and 720 metres in the other.

“This meant that the Aero Club had to self-limit their operations on certain days in unfavourable conditions, losing significant income in Summer months when the issue was greatest.

“More disappointingly, it meant that the twin-engined Aeromedical flights which occasionally frequented the airfield could no longer land.

“These flights periodically flew patients into and out of the Central Coast for critical medical care at other hospitals.

“The Warnervale Airport Restrictions Act Review of last year, which was specifically tasked only with the usage of the Airport in terms of aircraft movements and runway dimensions, even made mention of the tree lines, despite the tree issue falling outside the scope of the review.

“The expert independent reviewers were so concerned about the hazard that the trees represented, that they felt compelled to specifically draw attention to the issue, and implored Council to rectify it immediately.

“This was a request which failed to move a majority of councillors.

“After the State Government suspended the current councillors, the Administrator, at one of his first meetings, approved the tree trimming.

“We are very happy to see that this vital work has now commenced, and it is important to remember that nobody has asked for the trees to be knocked down or destroyed, simply that a few trees have their tops trimmed,” Smith said.

Sue Murray