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Photo: Macleay Argus

On Saturday I received a briefing from the Kempsey Airport Action Group as a part of wider discussions I have been having and research I have been doing. 

Just to be clear, my views on the airport issue are as follows:

The Airport is an asset for Kempsey and at present, it is underutilised as commercial passenger services no longer operate. Kempsey needs an airport – it is an essential infrastructure in any regional centre. 

It is a ‘country airport’ and used for civil aviation, recreation, medical transfers, cargo and small amounts of pilot training. Its intent was no more than this. It is historically close to town as the site was chosen in 1930. 

It is a victim of ‘bad planning’ by Council and other authorities over the years as residential areas and schools are either under flight paths or within close proximity to them. There is prime agricultural land and the Macleay River in the vicinity. 

The previous proposal for a pilot training school taking aircraft movements from around 3k a year to 30k a year is unacceptable. The airport, location and surrounding areas are not fit for this purpose. The airport is too close to ‘everything’.

I have no issue with foreign pilots being trained in Australia. We are perfectly positioned to be an education service provider to Asia and beyond. International education is a $20 billion a year export industry for Australia and we need this to grow in the years ahead. But, not at any cost – to residents, to the environment and to local economic detriment. 

Council is now back at the ‘drawing board’ with the proponent to see if something acceptable to the community can be come up with. This is what I am open-minded about. Let’s see what this process and the work of the community based ‘Kempsey Airport Reference Group’ comes up with.

Anything that is proposed must be based inputs, such as: 

  • Maximising the safety of residents, schools and businesses
  • Maximising the amenity of residents, schools and businesses 
  • Ensuring the integrity of prime agricultural land
  • Ensuring the integrity of waterways 
  • Full disclosure of an Environment Impact Statement
  • Full disclosure of a Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Training program operations (like circuits) that are far removed from residential, education, aged care and business areas
  • Independent analysis of the impact of any plan on housing prices
  • Independent analysis of community sentiment toward the project

Above all, I want complete transparency. No secret documents, no fine print, no guesswork. We need a robust process.

If at the end of a genuine and not token process, something acceptable can be come up that has the support of the community, then we should be open-minded about it, and give it a go, subject to, for example, annual review. If it is more of the same, in my opinion, the response has to be thanks but no thanks. 

I support economic development – but not at any cost. Community, environmental and wider economic concerns are paramount. 

Andrew, 10 September 2018


Resources

Macleay Argus: 20 July 2018: Country Labor Candidate for Oxley Susan Jenvey voices stance on airport debate