WILLIAMTOWN AIRCRAFT NOISE
Mr CRAIG BAUMANN
(Port Stephens) [1.10 p.m.]: I speak today to suggest solutions to serious problems I raised in a private member's statement I delivered in this House on 23 February this year, titled "Williamtown Aircraft Noise". In February, I advised the House of the very serious conflict between future development in Port Stephens and the Australian Department of Defence due to the introduction of Australian Noise Exposure Forecast [ANEF] 2025 for Williamtown and the Salt Ash Weapons Range. ANEF 2025 is a statistical guesstimate of noise exposure in 2025, in 15 years, when the new joint strike fighter, the F-35, will be in service.
An Australian Noise Exposure Forecast is created by estimating the noise made by an aircraft flying over a particular point in a particular manoeuvre and applying a factor related to the frequency of that flight. Model all aircraft, their manoeuvres and the frequency of those flights, and we have an Australian Noise Exposure Forecast. Most of us are familiar with the forecast around Sydney Airport with the constant and steady stream of arriving and departing flights, and aircraft that are just about nose to tail outside curfew hours. The aircraft noise around Sydney Airport is real and constant.
Williamtown is primarily a military fighter base. The FA-18 is unmuffled and noisy, and the F-35 will be similar when it finally arrives. Many members would have heard the sound of freedom firsthand when an FA-18 climbed out over the Domain after its flypast at the Battle for Australia commemoration three weeks ago. On the weekend, in excess of 60,000 people crowded the Williamtown base for the Royal Australian Air Force air show, which featured the FA-18, the F-111, the Super Hornet and many other current and former RAAF aircraft. The air show was a fantastic success, for which we should congratulate the Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Mark Binskin, and Commander of the Tactical Fighter Group Air Commodore Mel Hupfeld, their staff and some of the best pilots in the world.
The problem is not the noise at Williamtown; it is the severe restrictions that the implementation of ANEF 2025 for Williamtown imposes on landowners within Australian Noise Exposure Forecast contours that are the problem. Under council planning instruments, dwellings can be built between ANEF 20 and ANEF 25 contours with appropriate noise attenuation. Dwellings cannot be built within the ANEF 25 contour and that may mean rebuilds. So if your house burns down, you may be unable to rebuild it if you live in an area within an ANEF 25. Under those circumstances, would anyone buy a house within an ANEF 25 contour? According to local real estate agents, the answer is "No". Putting it slightly differently, the value of existing houses within an ANEF 25 zone could be argued to be zero or less. As I have stated, this serious issue is not based on aircraft noise, but on the perception of aircraft noise.
A loss in an infamous court case in 2003 forced Port Stephens council to strictly control development within Australian Noise Exposure Forecast zones or risk further legal action from disgruntled landowners. I am calling on this Government to legislate to allow councils to advise rather than regulate landowners who choose to build residential dwellings or units on land affected by military Australian Noise Exposure Forecasts and thus protect councils from future legal actions. Most of the Royal Australian Air Force flying occurs between 9.00 a.m. and 5.00 p.m. from Monday to Friday, when the actual noise of a jet flying over is not a particular problem. There are night exercises, but those are relatively infrequent. I am asking the Department of Defence to produce an Australian Noise Exposure Forecast for this working-hour activity with another Australian Noise Exposure Forecast to model the remainder of air traffic in and out of Williamtown.
I am asking the Department of Defence to commit to extending the Williamtown runway to the south-east by the 300 metres required for new air refuellers and AWAC aircraft. At present RAAF Williamtown has an instrument landing system on the north-western approach to the runway, so trainee pilots practise landing over Raymond Terrace rather than over Stockton Bight. I am asking the Department of Defence to establish a ground based augmentation system [GBAS] at RAAF Williamtown, particularly for military jets. The ground based augmentation system is a safety-critical system that augments the GPS standard positioning service and provides enhanced levels of service. It supports all phases of approach, landing, departure, and surface operations within its area of coverage in all weather, and one ground based augmentation system can cover multiple runway ends. Instead of the conventional approach, the ground based augmentation system allows aircraft to shorten their approach. This can greatly reduce the extent of the noise-affected zone and can save fuel and carbon dioxide emissions.
With the F-35 not due for some time, I would suggest that the Department of Defence model its two Australian Noise Exposure Forecasts for Williamtown as a GBAS-equipped airfield. The ANEF 2025 is meant to model aircraft noise as it will be in 15 years. If a ground based augmentation system is adopted, the current ANEF 2025 is meaningless and should be scrapped. The issues I have raised are serious and I call on my colleagues for bipartisan support to address them to ensure that the close relationship between Port Stephens residents and RAAF Williamtown continues into the future.