Port Stephens Council has managed to upset the single largest employer in the area with the approval of residential developments within established noise contours around RAAF Base Williamtown.
The Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Geoff Brown has expressed his disappointment with a decision by the council to exempt developments that will be exposed to noise from fast jets operations.
“Home owners that purchase these new developments are acquiring properties that will be exposed to high levels of aircraft noise both now with F/A-18A/B Hornets and F-35A in the future,” Brown said in a statement.
Aircraft noise has been a long-standing issue in the area, with the Department of Defence having spent considerable public funds to acquire noise-affected properties surrounding the air base. The RAAF has also made efforts to mitigate impacts through the acquisition of affected properties and modifications to flight practices and flightpaths.
The recent move by the council, which co-leases Newcastle Airport together with Newcastle City Council from the Department of Defence, demonstrates a similar short-sightedness afflicting other councils that allow residential developments surrounding commercial airports, but arguably more so in Port Stephens given the expected increase in noise impacts at RAAF Williamtown with the arrival of the F-35.
The placement of a higher value on local government incomes rather than minimising exposure to noise is set to create yet more noise-related complaints in a region that already suffers from high levels of activity at the Salt Ash Air Weapons range.
“We will continue to work with the Williamtown community through our fly neighbourly policies. However our focus will be on working with existing home owners,” Brown added.