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A string of failures at Airservices Australia has been uncovered in an investigation by the Aircraft Noise Ombudsman (ANO) into the community engagement and 2007 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process for Brisbane Airport’s new runway.

The report finds that Airservices failed to effectively engage with communities potentially affected by new flight paths nor did it provide full and complete information about aircraft noise to potentially impacted community. Further, the findings show that Airservices did not conduct a detailed assessment of whether changes it made to Brisbane flight paths after the initial 2007 approval had a significant environmental impact.

The investigation was sparked when the ANO was flooded with complaints from the Brisbane community after Brisbane’s new runway became operational in June 2020. Chair of Brisbane Flight Path Community Alliance (BFPCA), David Diamond, said that the report vindicates the community that has been accused of being unreasonable and NIMBY’s.

“The Brisbane community that has been fighting this terrible airspace design has maintained all along that we were blind-sided by these impacts. The report from the ANO has confirmed what we have known from day dot, that Airservices Australia and Brisbane Airport Corporation misled local communities about what they were going to do to us,” David said. 

“We knew, but this report demonstrates and lays bare the complete failure of Airservices to meet its obligations to the Brisbane community, and the degree to which that failure occurred is shocking,” he said.

The ANO’s investigation highlights how the initial airspace design put forward in the 2007 EIS was altered a number of times between 2015-2019 without seeking further approval from the Minister for Transport under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, a requirement if significant changes are needed. New technologies emerged after the 2007 approval that was later adopted, which funnels air traffic onto narrow corridors, concentrating noise, which BFPCA argues constitutes a significant change alone.

The ANO found that there “does not appear to be a single detailed and comprehensive assessment of whether the environmental impact of the final flight paths deviated significantly from those proposed in the 2007 EIS.” The report also finds that Airservices undertook a Noise Footprint Comparison that was not completed until December of 2018, but that it had written to the Minister for Environment declaring there was no material difference between the 2007 design and the updated design in August 2018 – some four months before it had completed its review. 

“The ANO’s report clearly shows systemic failures at Airservices to address the deviations between its 2007 approval and what it ultimately delivered in 2020,” David said. “When you couple this with the findings about the misleading community engagement on the issues, you can see it’s a recipe for the mess they’ve inflicted on us now.” 

Airservices Australia contracted Brisbane Airport Corporation to undertake the community engagement for the flight path design and participated at arm’s length via workshops with the BAC team, which the ANO says suited Airservices’ lack of capacity in effective community engagement. The ANO’s report declares that “Airservices did not comply with its obligations and policies to engage openly and constructively with the communities affected by the changes to flight paths in Brisbane associated with the new runway.” And further that, “consultation under the 2007 EIS cannot be relied upon to satisfy Airservices’ community engagement obligations.”

The report also finds that there was scant evidence that areas in Upper Brookfield and Samford that are now experiencing aircraft noise were effectively engaged, and that areas affected that are further from the airport received little attention outside BAC’s presence at the EKKA in 2019.

“What this amounts to is a complete failure by Airservices to live up to even its own standards of community engagement,” David said. “BFPCA will be taking the time to digest this report and feed into BFPCA’s initial legal review of the community’s recourse options, which we commenced in August,” he said.

“We’re grateful to the ANO for conducting a comprehensive, frank and fearless appraisal of Airservices’ work,” he said. “We’ll be sure to take these findings and demand Airservices revisit its designs and does some genuine soul searching. They’re a government owned corporation, they’re supposed to work in our interest,” David said. “They should be considering how they have been able to be led so far off course to where they have systemically failed their Brisbane community.” 

You can read the ANO’s full report here.

About BFPCA

Brisbane families and communities have been suffering from excessive noise pollution and associated health and related impacts from Brisbane Airport’s new flight paths launched in July 2020. A vast number of community grievances submitted to the Aircraft Noise Ombudsman (ANO) triggered his multiple complaints review that is investigating Brisbane Airport’s and Airservices Australia’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and its community engagement as part of the flight path design process.

The Brisbane Flight Path Community Alliance (bfpca.org.au) has come together to fight back on behalf of all Brisbane families and communities experiencing this noise pollution. Our survey research and investigations identified flawed and inadequate community engagement and misleading noise modelling.

For more information about BFPCA visit www.bfpca.org.au and join its Facebook Group at facebook.com/groups/BrisAirportNoiseAction

Contact: contact@bfpca.org.au