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Sheep farmer issues RAAF ‘cease and desist’ noise notice for $15.3m

written by Adam Thorn | April 16, 2021

F-35A Lightning II aircraft A35-033 touches down at RAAF Base Williamtown after transiting from the United States. Photo Sergeant David Gibbs 2
An F-35A Lightning II, A35-033, touches down at RAAF Base Williamtown from the US. (Sergeant David Gibbs)

A sheep farmer near RAAF Base Williamtown took the Air Force to the NSW Supreme Court after it ignored a “cease and desist” notice she personally issued to stop flying aircraft over her property.

Julie Steepe, representing herself, argued on Thursday that the RAAF owed her $15.3 million for “trespass” on her farm at Bulahdelah, which contravened her “lawful right to quiet enjoyment of my property”.

Justice David Davies on Thursday dismissed the case, ordering her to pay costs.

Steepe’s 40 hectares of land is located 50 kilometres north-east of Williamtown, which is home to F-35s, Hawk, PC-9s and the E-7A Wedgetail aircraft. She claimed flights had increased from fewer than five per week to around 500.

In 2020, she issued the RAAF a series of invoices after the organisation didn’t comply with her order to “cease and desist”. The final notice stated it had seven days to show what lawful authority it had to “trespass” on her land.

“A breach of the border … will incur a fee of $AUD167,000 plus a further $AUD167,000 for each subsequent breach,” it said.

“This being compensation for breaching my lawful right to quiet enjoyment of my property, as well as my lawful right to the alienation of my property from the Crown.


“The border of my property extends to the centre of the earth and to the expanse of the universe.”

Unhappy with the response, Steepe took RAAF to the NSW Supreme Court, arguing the invoices now totalled $15.3 million.

She also sought an order to prevent further RAAF aircraft flying over her property.

Justice David Davies said in his ruling, “A landowner does not have any right arising from ownership of the land to prevent aircraft flying over their property, provided that it is at a height above that which is necessary for the ordinary use and enjoyment of the land and the structures upon it.

“The plaintiff submitted that she has a right to ‘quiet enjoyment of the land’, and that is interfered with by the noise of the aircraft. Any notion of quiet enjoyment is a matter between a landlord and a tenant, either as an implied or express condition of a lease.

“The word ‘quiet’ in those circumstances is not concerned with noise as such, but with a right to reside on the land without interruption, interference or disturbance by the landlord or grantor of the land. The only appropriate analogy for an owner of land in fee simple is that no other person has a right to trespass upon the land or, arguably, commit a nuisance on or onto the land.

“As will be seen below, matters of trespass and nuisance as far as aircraft are concerned, have been dealt with by statute. The plaintiff has no other ‘right’ of quiet enjoyment.”

Last year, Australian Aviation reported how noise complaints at Brisbane Airport have increased from 24 to 117 a month since the opening of its new runway.

The development comes despite earlier promises that new flightpaths would reduce disruption for locals by allowing aircraft to take off over the bay at night, rather than across the city.

The airport played down the situation and said questions and complaints were “expected” given the changes.

Comments (24)

  • Brian


    “The border of my property extends to the centre of the earth and to the expanse of the universe.”

    Simply amazing.

  • I’m so glad that Justice David Davies showed common sense and has ordered Julie Steepe to pay all Court costs for taking RAAF to the NSW Supreme Court, arguing that the RAAF has ignored a “cease and desist” notice she personally issued to stop flying aircraft over her property and invoices now total $15.3 million. How ridiculous and greedy is this person!
    If Steepe had won this case, it would potentially set a precedence for everyone who owns a property to sue the RAAF or QANTAS or whoever for flying over their private property at any altitude.
    Hopefully the RAAF will now use her property location as an inbound waypoint to the RAAF Base.

    • Matthew T


      Flying at hill hight is unlawful. Read your operations manual.
      There’s a bigger story here.

  • Mike Hill


    There was already precedence for this bit being upheld. Early last century, some guy got the woops with his neighbor flying over his property “often”. Hey spent every last cent of his money trying to get the government to agree that he owned the airspace above his property. Fortunately (and don’t quote me here!) the government got this one right, and saw that this would have massive consequences if they were to allow this. And in that case, the other party was a private flight- nothing to do with maintaining specific Defence capabilities for the nation.

  • Marum


    There is an old saying: “He who represents himself, has a fool for a client.


  • HonestJon


    Sounds like someone read a law book and thought they now knew everything about the law

  • John Phillips


    The old saying “A person who represents themselves in Court has a fool for a client”, comes to mind here.

  • Adam Brame


    How times show my fellow countryman and law maker’s have lost touch with how some including myself are living. I relied on a food handout today might I add that I was nearly bashed to death and was compensated $7000. Understand without defence the farmer’s voice means nothing. How does this even make it through the courts. What a joke that our government seems to award massive amounts to those who contest.

  • Peter Vears


    Amazing these nut cases keep popping
    We rely on our RAAF to provide protection and very often humanitarian
    aid delivery as well a vital assistance in times of disaster.
    No wonder the judge threw out the case
    we do not own land “to the centre of the earth”…..may the air force continue their missions as needed….may she buy some ear muffs!!!!!!

    • Matthew T


      As a farmer / fellow pilot and land owner in Bulahdelah, I am amazed at some of the negative comments left here…

      Why hasn’t anyone asked about the hight, at which these jets fly??

      When was flying below hill hight made legal?

      There’s real story here and egotistical comments are not helpful.

      Pilot. Farmer. Neighbor.

  • Michael


    I wish I could send my neighbours a cease and desist order for their noisy lawnmowers , it would to be able to enjoy a quiet weekend, instead of having to listen to lawnmower noise for most of the weekend .

  • Dennis Goodman


    Who was there first? The farmer or the Air Force Base? Complaints of this nature are usually made by people who have moved into a location without doing due diligence!!

  • Robert Burns


    There should never be any aircraft overflying her land. The so called right to ignore this breaks with all rights of fee simple ownership under common law doctrine.

    • Concerned Internet Citizen


      This is false Robert. In Australia you only own the top 6 inches of soil and the lowest 40m of airspace.

      Under the actual law, a landowner has no determination or rights with regard to aircraft so long as they fly above 40m of the lowest point on the property.

      All of the aircraft in a region could be placed in a holding pattern over your property for hours and there would be precisely nothing you could do about it.

      The airspace belongs to the crown, not you

  • I live under the flight path to Amberly, when the Hornets come in on approach sometimes they are that low I’m sure if you waved they would do a wing wobble, my sister gets excited & can’t get enough of them..
    It happens pretty much on a daily basis!
    No complaints from this quarter…

    This story is like the one from WWII.. The American air force had an engine rebuilding & testing center at Eagle Farm Brisbane… It was an around the clock operation with engine testing sometimes done at night..
    A woman complained, she was politely told “madam, would you rather listen to the sound of an allied aircraft engine or that of a Japanese one”
    No more complaints!!

  • Nikki Sims


    I don’t know about her boundary extending to the edge of the Universe but she’s definitely out there!

  • Christopher Lockwood


    Is her next option declaration of war? She çlaims sovereignty and denounced the Crown.

  • Matthew T


    As a land owner next to Julie’s farm, we are in total agreement.
    We are regularly targeted by supersonic, low flying jets.

    I’ve seen the bombing range (Shack) over near Williamtown. Fighter pilots love to drop a bomb like weight,
    in a dive pattern onto a ‘shack’ in the middle of a bombing range. Around they go, one jet after another, over and over, till they hit the shack.

    You can imagine how farmers on tractors or quad bikes make for fun live targets.

    We get ambushed sometimes at hill hight.
    The noise and the blasted shock is insane and the last thing you see, are the tail fins as the jet rockets past.

    It’s inconsiderate and dangerous and scares the hell out you and the animals go nuts – especially the horses.

    I know it’s restricted airspace, but there should also be restrictions on height.

    Bombah Point Road.

  • Matthew T


    I don’t know if my last comments were add here, so I’ll try again.

    The pilots target 🎯 farmers on tractors, quad bikes and lawnmowers.
    They ambush us at hill hight. Swooping in from nowhere. Sound of low flying jets are deafening.
    The horses go nuts and just run – sometimes through fences.

    Height restrictions are ignored in Bulahdelah. It’s a real problem that needs to be addressed.


    • Concerned Internet Citizen


      All of your comments have been added.

      The law states that a land owner only owns the lowest 40m of airspace on their land. Above 40m belongs to the crown.

      That is, “hill height” can very well be inside crown airspace and thus, legal.

  • Bryant


    Attn: Adam Thorne

    How did the above foul mouthed comment get ok’d by your ‘scrutiny’, & get published?
    Disgusting wordage in your publication!

  • Wags


    I recall many years ago, when Perth airport was expanding, a new housing development was built quite close to the new secondary north-south runway with little but a 6 lane freeway between them.
    Because of the location (I believe) the houses sold quite cheaply — it costs the same to build a house no matter where, but lets face it, the developers got the land from the Govt for a song. Now the runways are built north-south because the N-S Darling Escarpment is not far away and an east-bound take-off would be inherently unsafe, and west-bound would be directly over Perth city. The RAAF also has N-S runways at Pearce (at Bullsbrook) and Gin-Gin, which is a damn nuisance foe the civilians as they have to turn soon after take-off for 2 reasons 1) avoiding Defence air space, and 2) northern suburb noise abatement requirements.
    This leaves the residents living close to the airport stuck with full power take-offs at all hours (including early AM caused by Sydney’s Mascot Airport Noise Abatement Regulations. This naturally FORCED them to take legal action to get a good nights sleep. I believe the Judge’s response could be paraphrased as;
    ‘Suck it up. The airport was the first. What did you expect?’
    They may have had better luck years earlier, if they’d been there to complain about the change from piston engined airliners to the horrendously noisy B707 jets.

  • Concerned Internet Citizen


    This is what happens when people fail to seek legal advice from a lawyer before issuing legal notices or going to court. They make a complete fool of themselves.

    This is Australia, not the USA. A landowner owns only the top 6 inches of soil and the lowest 40m of airspace. You can apply to build higher, but that’s a different matter.

    Planes are allowed to fly over your property as much as air traffic control want them too. The RAAF could send it’s planes out into a holding pattern over her property for hours on end and be perfectly legal in doing so.

    Let’s hope this was a lesson to her and others that Google contains very few answers and there’s a very good reason to seek professional advice in matters of importance

  • Leo Bramble


    Most of these comments are about our modern aircraft ( which are reasonably quite) Why not try to find out how loud a Mirage Fighter is, we lived with these beasts for years & our animals totally ignored the sound, Suck it sunshine or MOVE!!

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