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Melbourne residents call for independent review into third runway

written by Hannah Dowling | March 18, 2022

Melbourne residents opposing a $1.9 billion third runway at Melbourne Tullamarine Airport are calling for the federal government to establish an independent committee to review the impact of additional noise pollution.

The airport revealed in January that its plans to open a proposed third runway, parallel to the existing north-south runway, is still underway, with an expected completion date set for 2027.

The plan hopes to ease the high levels of congestion seen at Melbourne prior to the COVID pandemic, by allowing for new simultaneous take-offs and landings.

Suburbs that skirt the airport’s north and south are expected to be most impacted by increased flight noise due to the new runway, however, a complete rework of Melbourne’s flight paths could see residential suburbs experiencing more flight noise than previously.


It follows significant community fallout over a similar newly opened parallel runway at Brisbane Airport, which has forced the airport and Airservices Australia to implement new tactics to limit noise for residents.

Now, Melbourne residents have argued that an independent panel must be established before the new runway is built.

According to a report by The Guardian, Melbourne local Michael Howson, a retired GP with a farm on the Maribyrnong River, has written to Minister for Infrastructure Barnaby Joyce, calling for an independent review of the proposed addition of a third runway at Melbourne.

Howson said a “totally independent expert commission” would be vital to review the proposal before it goes further.

“This would assess the proposal rather than after the fact trying to mitigate or prevent the disaster,” he said.

“There is no way of reducing noise to safe levels once it is built.”

Howson argued that based on current capacity and future projections, Melbourne’s third runway would see five times as many planes flying over the city than currently flying over Brisbane, which would heavily impact noise pollution.

The local resident said this would likely result in noise pollution of “around 70-80 decibels every three to six minutes”.

“If you allow for a 10-decibel difference for being indoors, that means there is a 60-70 decibel level, so the teacher trying to teach gets drowned or so needs to shout or wait for the planes to pass,” he said.

Former mayor of Brimbank John Hedditch agreed with Howson that an independent panel is required before the project proceeds.

“It’s got too much vested interests in it and I’m not confident we’re getting a balanced perspective at all,” he said.

“The airport has an interest in getting the most viable, cost-effective operational model in place and that’s what it’s doing here. The community’s voice is not being heard by decision-makers.”

Hedditch suggested that additional utilisation of Melbourne’s second airport, Avalon, is a suitable alternative to a third runway at Tullamarine.

Meanwhile, Keilor local Hannah Robertson, a spokesperson for the Melbourne Airport Community Action Group, said any such forum would need to make a “genuine commitment to support the community” and prioritise “protecting health and wellbeing”.

The proposed runway currently remains in the early consultation phase, with public consultation due to end in mid-May.

The final proposal for the 3,000-metre runway will then be submitted to the federal infrastructure minister for final approval in 2023.

A spokesperson for Melbourne airport said an independent review was a decision for the federal government, but that the airport would “fully participate” should that decision be made.

“Melbourne Airport engaged independent experts to rigorously assess environment, health and social aspects of this project, for the construction period and as operations begin and increase over time,” they said.

“We are confident that the assessments are thorough, but we also welcome community analysis and response.”

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Comments (8)

  • Andrew


    Why aren’t locals being offered compensation? Melbourne Airport makes great profit (when COVID isn’t an issue) and this additional runway will mean even more profit. Share the spoils with locals that are going to be affected, much like businesses that agree to put mobile towers on their buildings. We all know it’s going ahead whether we like it or not, Melbourne airport will be pumping money to political causes to ensure it happens. Make it worth our while to have to put up with the noise, reduction in property values etc otherwise, piss off, we have a right to not have to put up with the noise. I’m a Keilor Downs resident.

    • Michael Howson


      Until 1988 the second north south runway was EAST of the original one.
      In the 1990 runway plans only the northern end of the second runway was to be used for commercial aircraft.
      Only in 1988 did APAC get approval for creating a new aircraft flight path south of Keilor village.

  • When Melbourne Airport was first proposed, there were large signs on the boundary roads drawing attention to the proposed airport. Melways Melbourne street directory drew attention to the possiblity of noise pollution on maps in certain localities. At that time most of the land around the proposed airport was largely open space. Development was subsequently allowed close to the airport. The only significant oppostion was by bans by unions on certain contruction on the eastern approaches. Modern aircraft are designed and operated to be significantly quieter. Perhaps the airport owners need to ensure that those people who are worried by this noise, include include these concerns on the mandatory sale documents when they go to sell their propety. This is done in some countries overseas.

  • Nicholas


    A wealthy and disgruntled Victorian, who would appear to not live near the Airport, and isn’t happy somehow has been spun into a breathless article about opposition to the third runway.

    Very poor reporting, need to do much much better. This should have been headlined “two or three NIMBYS complain about third runway”…

  • Peter Uziallo


    How many of these “noise affected” houses have been built in the last 55 years? Don’t blame the airport, it’s the local councils who allowed this type of housing development so close to the then planned new airport in a semi rural setting. The airport was there first, so get over it!

  • Adrian P


    The Draft Airport Plan is already out of date because the sections on the ultimate four runway layout do not reflect the shortening of the current east-west runway as proposed in the Third Runway Development Plan.
    The reason for the shorter east-west runway is the difference in elevation between the current north-south runway and the proposed north -south runway.
    If the difference in elevation between the current north-south runway and the proposed north -south runway also means that the fourth runaway will be a short runway, then why would you bother with a fourth runway.
    Scrapping the east-west runways would reduce the noise footprint while reducing the capital and maintenance cost of the airport.

  • Michael Howson


    ” Wealthy disgruntled Victorian “Well I AM disgruntled and I will accept the wealth if offered, but basically I am a local GP who has been caring for kids and their parents in the region for over 40 years. This airport was planned in 1990 to be a 320,000 annual flight airport with only 87,000 flights to be flown over planned noise corridors of parks and industrial land.
    The noise affected area enclosed by ANEF 20 has been expanded to the south of the airport SEVEN FOLD since the ULTIMATE airport capacity contour maps promised in 1990 which showed no planes flying south of old Calder Hwy. I bought here in 2003 believed the noise contour map of 1998 was FOR THE ULTIMATE airport capacity IN 2050. This plan also stops planes when ever possible using the airport to fly in from the north and out to the west and not over homes and schools. In the dictionary ultimate means last and not something changed with every new airport strategy plan.
    It is an oxymoron for the airport to says it employs independent experts.
    There is daylight between what these guys say, what all the overseas research shows and WHO’s 2018 Strong recommendations for maximum safe environmental noise levels based 80 of Europe’s leading acoustic researchers and academics reviewed over 400 papers on noise harm. I am not opposed to he airport expansion, just to harm of my community.
    If Melbourne airport built the airport they bought in 1997 they would be able to expand another 50% or 55 million passengers per annum over the next 12 years and cause less noise harm than they did in 2019
    We need metrics that are based on levels just below when measurable noise harm can be measured not based on a 40 year old survey that claimed a level at which 10 % of population was noise distressed and another 45 % moderately so. was acceptable for homes schools etc.
    Virtually all the power ,all the money, all the influence, and all the access to expert opinion rests the Melbourne Airport All this verses the second most socio economicaly depressed area in Melbourne
    We urgently need a fully independent expert panel to ensure a just and equitable outcome occurs.

  • Mark


    Anyone that lived there prior to 1970 has the right to be heard or compensated. Otherwise you have no business complaining about something which everyone knew would happen eventually.

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