fbpx

Estimates of government expenditure are referred to Senate committees as part of the annual budget cycle. This opportunity to examine the operations of government plays a key role in the parliamentary scrutiny of the executive. One of the most significant features of the procedure for examining estimates is the opportunity that senators have to question officers of the public service directly. BFPCA has engaged the Australian Parliament’s Senate Estimates process to hold the government to account for Brisbane Airport’s excessive noise pollution experienced by Brisbane residents.

BFPCA is grateful to the Senate Standing Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport for asking the following questions. BFPCA also thank the offices of Terri Butler MPSenator Anthony ChisholmSenator Janet RiceSenator Larissa Waters for their support in tabling these questions.

On this page we publish video recordings and document answers provided to questions on notice. These written answers can also be retrieved from the website of the Parliament of Australia here.

Budget Estimates 2021 / 2022

Airservices Australia; hearing date: 25 May 2021

Airservices questioned in Senate Estimates

Airservices questioned in Senate Estimates In this round of Senate Estimates (25 May 2021), Airservices were questioned whether the Brisbane airspace design and route structure to the parallel runway fully complies with ICAO safety regulations and separation standards with respect to independent and dependent operations. Airservices was also picked up on the previous answers they supplied confirming they regularly engage consultants for review and advice (at a cost of over $13M over the last 14 months alone), yet no consultants were used by Airservices to review the flight path design work for the parallel runway airspace at Brisbane Airport. Nothing to see here, do move on! Finally, Airservices were asked to explain the stark discrepancies between the original 2006 EIS design principles and promises made to the Brisbane community and the reality of excessive noise pollution now in 2021. Interestingly, Airservices do not seem to be too familiar with their own legislation, such as the “Significant Impact on the Local or Regional Community Guide” 2012 that forms part of the Airports Act 1996. Watch this segment, get angry, and take action: https://bfpca.org.au/take-action/ Video source: https://parlview.aph.gov.au/mediaPlayer.php?videoID=543255

Posted by Brisbane Flight Path Community Alliance on Tuesday, 25 May 2021

Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications; hearing date: 24 May 2021

Department of Transport interrogated in Senate Estimates

Department of Transport interrogated in Senate Estimates The executives of the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications responsible for aviation were today summoned and interrogated in Senate Estimates. Listen to what they have to say about the excessive noise pollution experienced by Brisbane communities, about their regulatory responsibilities and oversight over Airservices Australia, and what they are planning on doing about the stark discrepancies between noise forecast modelling and the reality of lived experience in Brisbane. Video source: https://parlview.aph.gov.au/mediaPlayer.php?videoID=543050

Posted by Brisbane Flight Path Community Alliance on Monday, 24 May 2021

Additional Estimates 2020 / 2021

Airservices Australia; hearing date: 22 March 2021

CEO of Airservices interrogated in Senate Estimates

As part of Senate Estimates today 22 March 2021, Jason Harfield, CEO of Airservices Australia, was asked a number of pertinent questions originally posed by the Brisbane Flight Path Community Alliance (BFPCA) about the airspace design work that is now causing excessive and unreasonable noise pollution from Brisbane Airport’s flight paths. Listen to what Mr Harfield has to say in this video, yet many of the important questions were taken on notice. BFPCA is grateful to the Senate Standing Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport for asking these questions and starting to hold Airservices Australia to account. BFPCA also thank the offices of Terri Butler MP, Senator Anthony Chisholm, Senator Janet Rice, Senator Larissa Waters for their support in tabling these questions to the Senate Standing Committee. If you experience noise pollution in Brisbane, visit https://bfpca.org.au to take action. Video source: Official recording of Senate Committee Proceedings from the Australian Parliament available at https://parlview.aph.gov.au/mediaPlayer.php?videoID=536737

Posted by Brisbane Flight Path Community Alliance on Sunday, 21 March 2021

See also the related item on our news page: “CEO of Airservices interrogated in Senate Estimates

Answers to Questions on Notice

101. Brisbane STARs

Senator Anthony Chisholm asked

Senator CHISHOLM: I have some questions around Brisbane and the new runway. When did Airservices Australia commence, and then finalise, the standard terminal arrival route and the standard departure design for the new parallel runway integration into the Brisbane basin air space? Mr Harfield: I have to take the specifics on notice, but the finalisation of it would probably have been about 12 months before the opening of the runway, which would have been mid-last year. You are probably talking about around 2018-19. I will correct that if it is not correct. Senator CHISHOLM: When was the decision made to adopt a closed STAR model in preference to an open STAR model, utilising radar vectoring to final approach with a dedicated director position? Mr Harfield: I have to take it on notice for specifics. Senator CHISHOLM: I presume it was in that same time period. Mr Harfield: That may have been earlier, because it’s one of the design principles—across the country, in introducing standard terminal arrival routes, we tried to go, where we possibly can, to closed STARs. The only place that doesn’t—that has open STARs—is Sydney airport. Senator CHISHOLM: Was the closed STAR model peer reviewed by another airline navigation service provider? If so, when, and was it after or before the adopted model was selected? Mr Harfield: As I said, closed STARs has been a design philosophy that we’ve had in the air space since standard terminal arrival routes were introduced in the mid-1990s. With regard to Brisbane, I would have to take that on notice.

Answer: Airservices commenced the Standard Instrument Departure (SID) and Standard Terminal Arrival Route (STAR) design in May 2016 and it was finalised in February 2020. A decision was made in May 2016 to proceed with a closed STAR design. Airservices did not engage another air navigation service provider to review the closed STAR option.

103. Research into airspace design models

Senator Anthony Chisholm asked

Senator CHISHOLM: What research was conducted amongst other airline navigation service providers about the air space design models for independent and dependent parallel runways? Mr Harfield: I have to take that on notice. We have had the United Kingdom’s National Air Traffic Services come and review them from time to time, but I would have to take it on notice for specifics. 

Answer: Airservices Australia has conducted research and engaged air navigation service providers on parallel runway systems and parallel runway operations from a number of countries including the Netherlands, Germany, United Kingdom, France, United States of America and Canada.

104. Brisbane Airport Corporation input

Senator Anthony Chisholm asked

Senator CHISHOLM: What input did the Brisbane Airport Corporation provide as far as a preferred model of operation for the use of parallel runways? Mr Harfield: I have to take that on notice to go back. Having parallel runways has been around for Brisbane for 20 years, so that sort of decision was made at that stage. The difference between dependent and independent parallel runways is the distance between the runways and how they operate. When they are a certain distance apart, such as in Sydney, where they’re only about just over a kilometre apart, they have to be operated in what we call a ‘dependent mode’, which means that they are treated as one runway: if you have aircraft on final, you have to stagger them—even though, technically, they are on different runways—because the runways are treated as one. When they are independent, you can operate them as two separate runways. That’s the difference between ‘dependent’ and ‘independent’. So I would have to go back and check, because that’s not a recent decision.

Answer: Brisbane Airport Corporation determined the location, orientation and mode of operation of their parallel runways through their Master Planning and Major Development Plan process.

105. Brisbane Airspace Design Consultants

Senator Anthony Chisholm asked

Senator CHISHOLM: Were consultants used by Airservices Australia in the design of the parallel runway airspace, and, if so, were any of the consultants recent Airservices Australia employees? Mr Harfield: I would have to take that on notice. 

Answer: No consultants were used by Airservices Australia in the Flight Path Design work for the parallel runway airspace.

106. Brisbane parallel runway airspace options

Senator Anthony Chisholm asked

Senator CHISHOLM: Were other options considered for the parallel runway airspace design? Mr Harfield: There most likely would have been, but I’d have to go back and take on notice what considerations were made, and when, to end up with the final model. 

Answer: Airservices considered: point merge; open standard instrument departure (SID); standard arrival route (STAR); and closed SID/STAR options as part of the system design phase for Brisbane New Parallel Runways.

107. Brisbane over the bay flights

Senator Anthony Chisholm asked

Senator CHISHOLM: I also have some operational performance questions. What proportion of flights in the 10 pm to 6 am overnight period—this is in regard to Brisbane—have been directed over the bay since the new runway was opened? 

Answer: For the period 12 July 2020 (when the new runway opened) to 31 March 2021, 72 per cent of arrivals and departures between 10 pm and 6 am were directed over the bay.

111. Operational Performance

Senator Anthony Chisholm asked:

What proportion of flights in the 10pm – 6am overnight period have been directed over the bay since runway opening, and what was the proportion forecast in the 2006 draft Environmental Impact Statement? What was the average number of daily flight events at or above 70 decibels at the New Farm, Bulimba, and Hamilton noise monitoring stations in December 2020, and what was the forecast count at each location in the 2006 draft Environmental Impact Statement? How many more overflights are forecast at these locations on return to normal post-COVID operations? Does this include turbo props?

Why is there such a significant difference between actual daily flight events at or above 70 decibels at the New Farm noise monitoring station compared to the forecasts published on the BAC Flight Path Tool?

What compulsory noise abatement procedures apply at Brisbane airport? Does this also apply to turbo props?

Do Airservices have powers to penalise non-compliance to aircraft noise abatement procedures and standards?

Unanswered as yet.

112. Australian Noise Exposure Forecasts

Senator Larissa Waters asked

1. Who provides regulatory oversight to ensure that airport operations conform to the Australian Noise Exposure Forecasts (ANEF) required as part of airport master plans and Major Development Plans (MDP)?

Answer: The regulatory requirement for Australian Noise Exposure Forecasts (ANEFs) is set out in the Airports Act 1996 (the Airports Act) which is administered by the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications. 

2. What happens when airport operations do not conform to their Australian Noise Exposure Forecasts (ANEF) as part of their airport master plans and Major Development Plans (MDP)?

Answer: The ANEF depicts future noise exposure and is built from assumptions around future operational levels usually 20 or more years in the future. To ensure that assumptions remain relevant, ANEFs are updated every 5 years for federally leased airports with the Australian Noise Exposure Index (ANEI) used as a baseline which measures actual noise exposure on a calendar year basis. 

3. Airservices considers a number of assumptions and inputs when conducting technical endorsements of ANEFs as stipulated in the ‘manner of endorsement’ document approved by the former Minister of Infrastructure and Transport in April 2017. As part of its technical endorsement of Brisbane Airport’s ANEF, can you confirm: 

  • That the appropriate selection of aircraft types for the airport have been used as input data? 
  • That the runway usage and flight path data used as an input to the model are ‘operationally suitable for the airport’? 
  • That the forecast numbers of aircraft movements, operating times and the aircraft types carrying out operations are not greater than the physical ultimate capacity of the existing or proposed runway/s, using accepted and published methodologies? 
  • That the contours have been modelled correctly? 
  • That the proponent has demonstrated they have paid ‘due regard’ to all issues raised by state and local government authorities in relation to the ANEF? 

Answer: Airservices Australia endorsed Brisbane Airport’s ANEF (Brisbane Airport Ultimate Practical Capacity ANEF) on 8 May 2019 in accordance with the ‘manner of endorsement’ document approved by the former Minister of Infrastructure and Transport.

4. Did Airservices consider any other relevant matters when you decided to endorse and approve Brisbane Airport’s ANEF?

Answer: No.

5. Considering Airservices provided technical endorsement and approval of Brisbane Airport’s ANEF, how do you explain the significant discrepancy between the noise exposure levels forecast by Brisbane Airport’s ANEF and the reality and lived experience of Brisbane residents as documented by both (i) Airservices’ own Noise and Flight Path Monitoring System (NFPMS) and (ii) the large volume of complaints received by Airservices’ Noise Complaints and Information Service (NCIS) and the Aircraft Noise Ombudsman (ANO)?

Answer: The ANEF is a land use planning tool derived from future predicted operational levels. There will always be a difference between the theoretical modelling and measured results.

6. Submission #44 by Dr Eric Ancich has been tabled to the Senate Finance & Public Administration References Committee relating to the Planning, Construction & Management of the Western Sydney Airport project. The submission reads:

In March 2019, the report “9173.R1 – “Assessment Of Measured Aircraft Noise Levels Under The Existing Flight Paths of Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport With Reference To Western Sydney Airport” (prepared by Dr Eric Ancich and Mr Donald Carter) was submitted to Blacktown City Council. The report subsequently attracted media interest (both electronic and print) and is now widely known as the Ancich Report. […] The Ancich Report suggested that the noise level predictions for Western Sydney Airport underestimated the true impact. […] The conclusion of the study was that measurement of noise generated by aircraft in flight had demonstrated that variability in the height of aircraft will result in a wide range of receiver noise levels. This variability in height and the commensurate variability in noise levels would increase the noise impact over Blacktown and the Lower Blue Mountains, by 3 and 4 times respectively in perceived loudness, compared to that predicted in the EIS due to assumptions built into the modelling.

The flawed ANEF for Western Sydney Airport that is now subject to a Senate Inquiry was developed by Wilkinson Murray – the same acoustical consultants that previously also developed the ANEF for Brisbane Airport. Do you agree that the significant discrepancy between the noise exposure levels forecast by Brisbane Airport’s ANEF, which Airservices endorsed and approved, and the reality and lived experience of Brisbane residents, can be explained by the same flaws as identified in the Ancich Report?

Answer: The current ANEF for Brisbane Airport was developed by AirBiz utilising the Federal Aviation Administration Integrated Noise Model Tool, which is used by an extensive number of countries around the world to model noise impacts, and endorsed on 8 May 2019. There will always be discrepancies between forecast and actual noise exposure levels.  

7. Was financial compensation for noise affected residents under the new runway flight paths in Brisbane considered, and will the matter of compensation be revisited now that the ANEF and aircraft noise modelling have been shown to be highly inaccurate and flawed?

Answer: Financial compensation for community under flight paths is not part of Airservices Australia’s remit or legislated responsibility.

8. On 24 February 2021, at the Technical Airspace Design Workshop Brisbane Airport Corporation stated that the decision for mixed parallel simultaneous operations at Brisbane Airport “was ultimately a decision by BAC.” Why was this BAC’s decision rather than Airservices’ or CASA’s as the government regulators, especially given the runway operating mode can determine much of the airspace design? Are private, commercial airport operators normally responsible for deciding their runway operating modes?

Answer: Private commercial airport operators are responsible for the design of their on-ground infrastructure. Brisbane Airport Corporation made the decision to provide a distance of 2000 metres between the two runway centrelines to enable independent operation modes to be developed by Airservices.

Airservices Australia designs the flight paths, develops procedures and modes of operation based on the orientation and location of the runways. Air traffic control determines which mode is applied based on traffic volumes, weather and other conditions, with safety as the highest priority.

9. Did the community have the same access to influence flight path design decisions as BAC?

Answer: Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) determined the location and orientation of their runways through their Master Planning and Major Development Plan (MDP) process. BAC’s community engagement during the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) consultation for their Master Plan and MDP provided an opportunity for the community to influence flight path decisions. Public consultation involved a two-year information campaign and a formal 90-day consultation period required as part of the MDP and EIS process.

10. Can you describe the commercial and regulatory relationships between Airservices and BAC? Does Airservices view BAC as its client and customer?

Answer: Airservices Australia is a service provider not a regulator. Federally leased airports are regulated by the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communicaitons. Airservices Australia is regulated by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority. 

Airservices Australia works with airports to deliver services to the aviation industry and travelling public, including air traffic control and aviation rescue fire fighting. Our services and supporting infrastructure are funded through customer charges to major domestic, international and regional airlines, charter operators, flight training schools and general aviation operators. 

11. Why was it considered necessary to operate at ultimate capacity mode (i.e. mixed parallel simultaneous operations) from day 1 at Brisbane Airport, and was any consideration given to a progressive capacity increase over time using alternative operating modes with better noise abatement outcomes?

Answer: Brisbane Airport is operating using parallel runway operating modes. It is however, not operating at full capacity due to low demand. 

Full parallel runway operations will commence at Brisbane Airport as demand increases. This will be managed with safety as the highest priority, with mode selection and Noise Abatement Procedures applied as appropriate to minimise the impact of aircraft operations on the community as far as practicable. 

113. Brisbane Community Engagement

Senator Larissa Waters asked

In response the Aircraft Noise Ombudsman’s findings that Airservices Australia failed to properly engage the community affected by flight path changes in Hobart, Airservices committed to: 

  • Improving environmental assessments: including amending Airservices’ Environment Management System so that a more detailed environmental assessment is required for flight path changes that overfly new communities and regional or rural areas; undertaking environmental risk assessments as part of the assessment process; and ensuring that assessments clearly define analysis against the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act) and Airservices criteria. 
  • Improving community consultation planning: enhancing stakeholder engagement plans to include ‘likelihood to notice a difference’ and to consider social impacts as well as the environmental assessment against the EPBC Act.

What did Airservices do differently in Brisbane for the new flight paths there compared to what it did in Hobart? 

Answer: The first two phases of engagement and consultation for the New Parallel Runway (NPR) were undertaken by Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) from 2005 to 2007, and 2007 to 2018, with support from Airservices Australia. 

The release of the Aircraft Noise Ombudsman’s April 2018 Investigation into complaints about the introduction of new flight paths in Hobart occurred after the first two phases of engagement and consultation for the Brisbane NPR. The report’s findings were considered in the final information phase, during which time the BAC Flight Path Tool and Mobile Information Centre were used to provide information on the flight paths and noise contours.

114. UK NATS Review Services

Senator Larissa Waters asked:

In his response to Senator Chisholm in the Senate Estimates hearing on 22 March 2021, Mr Harfield said: “We have had the United Kingdom’s National Air Traffic Services [NATS] come and review them [air space design models for independent and dependent parallel runways] from time to time.” 

  • When did NATS provide their review services to the air space design and flight paths? 
  • Did NATS provide their review services remotely from London, or did they send consultants to provide review and assessment in situ at Brisbane Airport? If the latter, over what period did the NATS consultants conduct their review in situ at Brisbane Airport? 
  • Did NATS provide independent peer-review of the mixed parallel simultaneous operations at Brisbane Airport? If so, what were the outcomes of this review? 
  • Did NATS provide independent peer-review of any alternative operating modes such as independent parallel operations? If so, what were the outcomes of their review of these alternative operating modes? 
  • In providing their review and advice, did NATS take into consideration any noise impacts on local communities? 
  • The subtropical climate of Brisbane means many residents now adversely affected by excessive noise pollution from Brisbane Airport’s flight paths used to enjoy an outdoor lifestyle. Many of them live in Queenslander homes, which are difficult to insulate from noise. In providing their review and advice, to what extent did NATS take into consideration the geographic location and subtropical climate of Brisbane, which is different to their home base in London? 

Answer: Airservices Australia (Airservices) has engaged the United Kingdom’s (UK) National Air Traffic Service (NATS) previously. On this occasion, Airservices did not engage the UK NATS to review airspace design models at Brisbane, however, the Brisbane Airport Corporation did.

115. Capacity optimisation and noise abatement

Senator Larissa Waters asked

1. The Statement of Expectations for Airservices Australia for the Period 15 July 2019 to 30 June 2021, issued by Michael McCormack MP, Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development on 4 July 2019, only requires Airservices to provide, “appropriate resourcing of the Noise Complaints and Information Service [NCIS] to continue to improve the flow and quality of information to noise affected communities.” Does Airservices require the NCIS team to do anything other than providing noise information, e.g. proactively advocate for international best practice noise abatement strategies at Australian airports? Or is it simply just an information and data logging service?

Answer: Airservices Australia’s Noise Complaints and Information Service (NCIS) fulfils the functions required to meet its obligations under the Ministerial Statement of Expectations 2019-2021 and Ministerial Directive 37/1999, which includes a requirement to “provide, maintain and enhance public response and reporting services through a dedicated Noise Enquiry Service at airports covered by the Airports Act 1996 and other major Australian airports.” These functions are to receive complaints from the community, to investigate and to provide information on aircraft operations to the community. 

2. Airservices Australia appears to have a stake in (i) the design of aviation airspace management regimes (flight paths) and airspace classification; (ii) levying of Navigation Charges and Rescue Firefighting Services to airlines, and; (iii) providing the Noise Complaints and Information Service [NCIS]. To what extent does Airservices carry out regulatory oversight – if any – and how does it manage its conflict of interest between being a commercial, incorporated entity of the government required to support increasing airspace capacity, and looking after local communities across Australia affected by aircraft noise? 

Answer: Airservices is an air navigation service provider not a regulator. The Air Services Act 1995 requires Airservices to regard the safety of air navigation as the most important consideration. Subject to this requirement being satisfied, Airservices must then ensure that as far as is practicable, the environment is protected from the effects of the operation and use of aircraft; and the effects associated with the operation and use of aircraft.