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 MP, Senator Anthony Chisholm, Senator Janet Rice, Senator Larissa Waters for their support in tabling these questions.
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Budget Estimates 2021 / 2022
📺 Video recording: 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=543255Posted by Brisbane Flight Path Community Alliance on Tuesday, 25 May 2021
📺 Video recording: 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=543050Posted by Brisbane Flight Path Community Alliance on Monday, 24 May 2021
Answers to Questions on Notice: Airservices
1. COMPLAINTS AND ENQUIRIES – NOISE COMPLAINTS AND INFORMATION SERVICES TEAM
Senator Gerard Rennick asked:
- How many staff are in the Noise Complaints and Information Services (NCIS) team, responsible for managing complaints and enquiries about aircraft noise and operations, and where are those staff actually located?
- How many complaints and inquiries in total does this NCIS team handle each year, and can you please provide a breakdown of the number and proportion of those complaints received via online, by phone, by post?
- How many of these complaints and inquiries relate to aircraft noise at Brisbane Airport, and again, can you please provide a breakdown of the number and proportion of those complaints received via online, by phone, by post?
- Has the number and level of community complaints about aircraft noise increased significantly since the second runway became operational at Brisbane Airport in the middle of last year (2020)? a. Can you provide details of the suburbs affected, as indicated by the location of residents who have lodged complaints since the second runway became operational?
- The NCIS has seven staff located in the NCIS office in Sydney.
- The number of contacts handled by the NCIS in 2019, 2020, and in 2021 (to 9 June) are listed below.
- In 2019, 22,829 contacts were received: 20,610 (90.3%) online; 2,131 (9.3%) by telephone; 48 (0.2%) by post; 40 (0.2%) by other means;
- In 2020, 18,136 contacts were received: 16,773 (92.5%) online; 1,329 (7.3%) by telephone; 11 (0.1%) by post; 23 (0.1%) by other means; and
- In 2021 (to 9 June), 12,387 contacts were received: 12,027 (97.1%) online; 349 (2.8%) by telephone; 8 (0.1%) by post; 3 (0.1%) by other means.
- The number of contacts handled by the NCIS relating to Brisbane Airport aircraft noise in 2019, 2020, and in 2021 (to 9 June) are listed below.
- In 2019, 690 contacts were received: 501 (72.6%) online; 188 (27.2%) by telephone; 1 (0.1%) by post;
- In 2020, 4,014 contacts were received: 3,854 (96.0%) online; 158 (3.9%) by telephone; 1 (0.0%) by post; 1 (0.0%) by other means; and
- In 2021 (to 9 June), 2,562 contacts were received: 2,528 (98.7%) online; 32 (1.2%) by telephone; (0.1%) by post.
- Yes, contacts to the NCIS have increased since the new parallel runway at Brisbane Airport became operational.
- A list of suburbs from which the NCIS has received noise complaints since the opening of the new runway is provided in Attachment A.
Attachment A – Origin of Brisbane Airport noise complaints
The tables below list suburbs from which the Noise Complaints and Information Services (NCIS) has received noise complaints since the opening of Brisbane Airport’s new runway in July 2020.
Eight Mile Plains
2. COMPLAINT RESPONSES – NOISE COMPLAINTS AND INFORMATION SERVICES TEAM
Senator Gerard Rennick asked:
- Does every complaint received by AirServices Australia receive an individual response?
- Do you count and report the total number of complaints received, or just the number of complainants who lodge complaints?
- What is the process you follow when multiple complaints are received from the same person, in relation to multiple instances of aircraft noise disturbance?
- Do you have a protocol in place whereby someone who lodges more than one complaint in a month only receives one response per month?
- How many complainants have lodged more than one complaint in a month, but only received one response? How do you justify this approach?
- Are you aware that AirServices Australia has sometimes sent members of the community correspondence with the generic signature block highlighted but without the responding officer’s name and position filled in? Is this protocol? Doesn’t this reflect a lack of care and attention in terms of how noise complaints are handled by AirServices Australia?
- Yes, every initial complaint receives a response. However, if a complainant writes to Airservices
Australia (Airservices) again with the same complaint and there is no new or further information
available, Airservices will advise the complainant of this and also, that future contact on the particular
matter may not receive a response. Airservices does not respond to anonymous complaints.
- All complaints made to the Airservices Noise Complaints and Information Service (NCIS) are
captured in the NCIS database. Airservices reports on the number of complainants and issues
raised each month; not the number of complaints. This enables Airservices to identify where
aircraft operations are affecting multiple people in a community, as opposed to an individual
who may submit multiple complaints about that same operation.
- The NCIS process depends on the nature of the multiple complaints.
- If a complainant makes multiple contacts over a short period and raises a concern that is still under investigation, the NCIS will advise the complainant that they do not need to make multiple complaints and that their complaint is being investigated.
- If the NCIS has previously responded to the complainant regarding the same issue and no new or further information is available, the NCIS will advise the complainant of this and that future contact on this matter will not be responded to.
- Each contact from a complainant is recorded and counted in monthly complainant data.
- See the answer at 3.
- The NCIS does not send responses without a first name and position title in the signature block. If this has occurred it is in error. The NCIS database is also used to send alerts about new projects to relevant community members. In this case, no officer’s name is included.
For further information on Airservices complaints process, please refer to the Frequently Asked Questions at: https://www.airservicesaustralia.com/community/environment/aircraft-noise/about-making-a-complaint/
31. NCIS TEAM – COMPLAINTS AND INQUIRIES
Senator Gerard Rennick asked:
Senator RENNICK: Thank you. How many complaints and inquiries in total does the NCIS team handle each year? Can you please provide a breakdown on the number and proportion of those complaints received online, by phone or by post? Mr Harfield: We will take that on notice. Senator RENNICK: You are welcome to. How many of these complaints and inquiries relate to aircraft noise at Brisbane airport? Again, can you please provide a breakdown of the number and proportion of those complaints received online, by phone and by post? Mr Curran: We’ll certainly take them on notice to give you the breakdown. I can give you a feel for that now, if that is helpful. Senator RENNICK: No worries. Has the number and level of community complaints about aircraft noise increased significantly since the second runway became operational at Brisbane airport in the middle of last year? If so, could you please provide details of the suburbs affected, as indicated by the location of residents who have lodged complaints since the second runway became operational? Do you want to take that on notice? Mr Harfield: We can say yes to the first part of that question. We’ll provide the suburbs. Senator RENNICK: Great. Does every complaint received by Airservices Australia receive an individual response? Do you count the total number of complaints received or just the number of complaints and who lodged them? What is the process you follow when multiple complaints are received from the same person? Do you have a protocol in place where someone who lodges more than one complaint in a month only receives one response per month? Mr Harfield: We’ll provide you with the protocols on that. There is a range of things. For example, if it is a complainant complaining about exactly the same thing multiple times, we treat that as one complaint. However, if that one complainant complains about two different events, they will be treated as that. We will provide that protocol. Senator RENNICK: No worries. I will put these on notice for you as well. Thank you.
Answer: Please refer to Committee Question Numbers 1 and 2 from the Rural & Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee 2021-2022 Budget Estimates hearing.
32. BRISBANE AIRSPACE DESIGN
Senator Janet Rice asked:
Senator RICE: I want to go to issues with Brisbane airspace design and the use of dependent separation approaches in Brisbane’s airspace design. What can Airservices Australia say about whether the use of dependent separation approaches is compliant with ICAO standards? Mr Harfield: I will ask Mr Curran to answer those questions if he can. Mr Curran: If I may, I would like to take that on notice with regard to the ICAO compliance. Senator RICE: Have you done any review of whether it is compliant with the ICAO standards? Mr Curran: As a part of the process to implement the Brisbane new parallel runway, there was both a design and an implementation safety analysis undertaken. It was to assess the safety of the design and whether it could be implemented safely. It was committed to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority for endorsement. Whether that actually directly linked to ICAO I would have to take on notice.
Answer: There are two types of dependent separation approaches used for the parallel runways at Brisbane Airport – dependent parallel visual approaches and dependent parallel instrument approaches. There are no International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards for dependent parallel visual approaches. Australia’s dependent visual parallel runway approach standards are set by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and implemented by Airservices Australia (Airservices).
There are ICAO standards for dependent parallel instrument approaches and Airservices can confirm compliance with these standards. The dependent parallel instrument approach standards were reviewed following a change by ICAO in 2018 and updated in February 2020.
33. STAR OPTION AT BRISBANE AIRPORT
Senator Janet Rice asked:
Senator RICE: In response to another question you said that Airservices did not engage another air navigation service provider to review the closed STAR option at Brisbane Airport and that no consultants were used by Airservices Australia in the flight path design work for the parallel runway airspace. Can you tell me why you did those two design changes without independent review from external experts? Mr Curran: I’ll have to take that one on notice. I think the plain answer is that we have the competency and capability in-house and we’re able to undertake the work ourselves.
Answer: Airservices Australia (Airservices) is Australia’s air navigation service provider, delivering world-leading services to manage the safe, orderly flow of aircraft into and out of Australia’s airspace.
Airservices has the competency, skill and experience to undertake flight path design work for parallel runway airspace, as recognised by the the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations 1998 (CASR) Part 173 Provider Certificate issued by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.
34. AIRSPACE DESIGN FOR BRISBANE
Senator Janet Rice asked:
Senator RICE: In answer to another question you said that Airservices did not engage the UK NATS to review airspace design models at Brisbane. However, the Brisbane Airport Corporation did and Airservices Australia designs the flight paths and develops procedures and modes of operation. Are you confident with what the private operator of the airport did in terms of conducting that review into Airservices Australia’s airspace design for Brisbane? Mr Harfield: Yes. Senator RICE: There’s no conflict of interest there? Mr Harfield: It’s not uncommon for the airport to engage someone to look at how the airport should be run more efficiently. At Perth, for example, when we had significant delays back in around 2007 with the mining boom, UK NATS were brought in to check runway occupancy times to improve the operation of the airport, so it’s not uncommon. Senator RICE: I presume you were provided with the outcome of that UK NATS review? Mr Curran: I’ll take that one on notice; I’m quite not sure. In the normal course of events, yes, there would be a healthy exchange in a potentially robust engagement around the different views. Senator RICE: Can you also then take on notice what issues or concerns were raised in that review and how they were resolved? Mr Curran: Yes.
Answer: Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) engaged United Kingdom National Air Traffic Service (UK NATS) to review airspace design for Brisbane.
UK NATS made two presentations to BAC on the findings of their review of the Brisbane airspace design.
Airservices Australia attended these presentations as an observer. Questions related to the issues raised by UK NATS are a matter for BAC.
35. SIGNIFICANT IMPACT ON THE LOCAL OR REGIONAL COMMUNITY GUIDE
Senator Janet Rice asked:
Senator RICE: Following the release of the Australian government’s national aviation policy white paper in 2009 there was the launch of the Significant Impact on the Local or Regional Community Guide, which now forms part of the Airports Act. You are familiar with that? Mr Curran: I would have to take that on notice. Senator RICE: It’s a pretty critical thing to be aware of if you are concerned about air noise and impacts on local communities. Mr Curran: I am aware of it. Senator RICE: Then why do you need to take it on notice? Mr Curran: I am aware of it. Senator RICE: This document is sometimes also referred to as the trigger guide. It says: “Impacts may result from one element of a proposed development rather than the development as a whole. Intermittent and cumulative effects need to be considered and if the proposed development is to be undertaken in stages over a period of time, the impacts of the development once completed need to be considered, even if the potential impacts will not be evident in the first instance.” Do you agree that the changes that the residents have experienced since the airport was opened are so significant as to constitute a trigger for the major development plan and the EIS to be revised and reviewed as per those guidelines? Mr Curran: I’d want to familiarise myself with the guidelines specifically before I answer that question, so I will have to take it on notice. Senator RICE: Okay…
Answer: Questions about requirements under the Airports Act 1996 and Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, including the requirement for reviews or revisions of a Major Development Plan (MDP) and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) processes, are matters for the airport operator, the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications and the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.
179. BRISBANE NEW PARALLEL RUNWAYS – DESIGN PHASE
Senator Janet Rice asked:
Airservices suggests in response to Committee Question Number 106 that it, “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.” – Why was a closed STAR design selected when Airservices advocates the Point Merge system as a superior option in the Western Sydney Airport Environmental Impact Statement? There, it says: “Point Merge provides a simple, predictable and standardised procedure for sequencing aircraft arrivals that can reduce noise impacts compared to alternative arrival management systems…” (Source: Western Sydney Airport Environmental Impact Statement Volume 1 Chapter 7, page 249)
Answer: Airservices conducted a quantitative and qualititative assessment of Closed Standard Arrival Route (STAR), Open STAR, and Point Merge options for Brisbane airspace against a range of criteria including safety, environment (this includes noise footprints and compliance with the approved Environmental Impact Statement), air traffic management, capacity and efficiency. The Closed STAR model ranked the highest and was selected as the preferred design for Brisbane Airport.
180. BRISBANE AIRPORT – CHANGES TO FLIGHT PATHS
Senator Janet Rice asked:
Airservices’ “Commitment to Community Engagement” document states, “We are committed to clear, proactive, inclusive, accessible, responsive, transparent engagement with communities who may be affected by proposed changes to flight paths and airspace.” Does Airservices Australia believe it has communicated with Brisbane residents in a “clear, proactive, inclusive, accessible, responsive” transparent manner in accordance with the “Commitment to Community Engagement”?
- What dates was that communication provided?
- How did Airservices Australia ensure that it met that standards set out in the Commitment to Community Engagement?
Answer: Airservices Australia (Airservices) introduced the Commitment to Community Engagement in August 2020 to provide clarity to the community and a clear statement of commitment on how it conducts engagement on flight path changes.
Airservices supported Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) in the delivery of the community engagement
program for the NPR. Engagement was conducted over three main phases from 2005 and is ongoing. The three main phases were:
- Phase 1 (2005 to 2007): BAC conducted a 22-month long public engagement program on the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and the Major Development Plan (MDP). Engagement specifically on these documents occurred between 31 October 2006 and 2 February 2007.
- Phase 2 (2007 to 2018): focused on public education and awareness of the new runway and flight paths based on the indicative flight paths approved through the EIS.
- Phase 3 (2018 to 2020): followed completion of detailed design and provided updated flight path design and operational information.
306. AIRCRAFT NOISE OMBUDSMAN
Senator Glenn Sterle asked:
- Please provide a breakdown of total complaints received by the Aircraft Noise Ombudsman regarding Brisbane Airport over the past 12 months.
- Please provide the same information for each of the last four 12-month periods.
- In the 2020-21 financial year, the Aircraft Noise Ombudsman (ANO) received a total of 377
complaints identified as related to Brisbane Airport operations. Of these complaints, 30 per cent were referred to Airservices Australia (Airservices) without ANO review, as the complainant had either not contacted Airservices or had yet to receive a response.
- From the 2019-20 financial year, the ANO Quarterly Report has incorporated complaint statistics by airport. Data for the previous 5 financial years is shown below:
|Financial year||Total complaints – Brisbane Airport|
Answers to Questions on Notice: CASA
181. REGULATORY AUTHORITY OVERSEEING AIRSERVICES
Senator Janet Rice asked:
In response to Committee Question Number 112, Airservices Australia said that it is regulated by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).
- As its regulator, has Airservices informed CASA about (i) any internally raised safety concerns with regards to ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) safety standards not having been applied correctly to the Brisbane airspace design, and; (ii) any Airservices’ internal investigation into such safety concerns employing their in-house operational integrity and standards specialists? What has Airservices reported to CASA?
- As the regulatory authority overseeing Airservices, what has been CASA’s response?
- In response to Committee Question Number 101, Airservices confirmed that, “Airservices did not engage another air navigation service provider to review the closed STAR option [at Brisbane Airport].” And further in response to Committee Question Number 105, Airservices stated, “No consultants were used by Airservices Australia in the Flight Path Design work for the parallel runway airspace [at Brisbane Airport].” – Considering the common practice by Airservices to engage external and independent “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” (Airservices’ answer to Committee Question Number 103), why was Brisbane’s airspace designed without independent review from external experts when others have been? As the regulatory body overseeing Airservices, why did CASA not insist on Airservices engaging external and independent peer reviewers considering the calibre and scale of this project and its long-term impact on Australia’s third largest city?
- Did CASA conduct any of its own reviews of Airservices’ design for Brisbane’s airspace before it was finalised and launched? And if so, were any issues or flaws identified – either with regards to ICAO safety standards, or with regards to the stark imbalance between maximising capacity whilst minimising noise abatement outcomes for local communities?
- (i) No safety concerns have been raised. (ii) As no safety concerns have been raised, no reports to CASA were required.
- Not applicable.
- CASA assesses an airspace proposal in accordance with the Airspace Act 2007 and is not required to recommend an independent review, nor considered it necessary.
- CASA was regularly engaged during the airspace design process to ensure the outcome was fit for purpose, safe and compliant with airspace regulations. CASA was satisfied with the aviation safety aspects of the proposed change. CASA was not involved in approvals or conditions related to flight path noise. Airservices Australia is responsible for considering noise outcomes from flight path designs.
182. NATIONAL AVIATION POLICY WHITE PAPER
Senator Janet Rice asked:
Following the release of the Australian Government’s National Aviation Policy White Paper in December 2009, the “Significant Impact on the Local or Regional Community Guide” was launched in January 2012, which now forms part of the Airports Act 1996 s89(1)(na).
- How does CASA ensure the Significant Impact on the Local or Regional Community Guide is incorporated into its regulatory approach?
- This document is sometimes also referred to as the “Trigger” guide. It says, “Impacts may result from one element of a proposed development rather than the development as a whole. Intermittent and cumulative effects need to be considered and if the proposed development is to be undertaken in stages over a period of time, the impacts of the development once completed need to be considered, even if the potential impacts will not be evident in the first instance.” (page 5). Considering the substantial changes that Airservices have implemented in the final airspace design, mode of operation, and noise abatement procedures for Brisbane, does CASA believe these changes constitute a trigger requiring the MDP and EIS to be revised and renewed as per these guidelines?
Answer: CASA is responsible for assessing the safety of avation at and around airports for any airspace change proposal. Questions relating to Major Development Plans and Environmental Impact Statements are a matter for the airport operator, the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications and the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.
183. REGULATORY MANAGEMENT
Senator Janet Rice asked:
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 CASA carry out regulatory oversight over Airservices Australia’s operations and performance, and how does CASA manage and regulate Airservices’ 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: The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) conducts regular surveillance of Airservices Australia (Airservices) to ensure they are meeting regulatory requirements under the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations 1998 and are compliant with the operating certificates issued by CASA. In addition to regular surveillance, CASA also conducts out of schedule surveillance events in response to any regulatory matters or aviation safety concerns.
The Office of Airspace Regulation was established in 2007 to separate the functions of a regulator from the service provider. CASA must ensure that any airspace changes are managed in accordance with the Airspace Act 2007 although this excludes the regulatory responsibility for aircraft noise. Aircraft noise complaints are managed directly by Airservices and the Department of Defence, with oversight by the Aircraft Noise Ombudsman.
Answers to Questions on Notice: Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications
176. BRISBANE AIRPORT NOISE
Senator Janet Rice asked:
The 2007 Conditions of Ministerial Approval of Brisbane Airport Corporation’s New Parallel Runway entail specific conditions about keeping the community informed (18) including “measures that will ensure the community is kept informed of […] changes to any air traffic control departure and arrival procedures.” The 2006 Environmental Impact Statement originally promised Brisbane residents that:
- New flight paths or existing flight path changes to occur over water where possible, especially where aircraft are below 5,000 ft.
- Where it is not possible for new flight paths to be over water, flight paths to be concentrated over uninhabited areas where possible.
- If flight paths over residential areas are necessary, then residential areas overflown by aircraft to be minimised to the extent practicable.
- Residential areas overflown by departing aircraft should not to the extent practicable also be overflown by arriving aircraft.
However, Airservices has failed on all four accounts: Since the launch of the new runway on 12 July 2020 to now (23 May 2021), the runway statistics indicate that Over-the-Bay operations (called SODPROPS) have been nonexistent during the day (6am – 10pm) and only 12 percentage points better at night (10pm – 6am). So even during the night, nearly a third of flights continue to fly over Brisbane residential homes and families between 10pm and 6am. Flight paths have been concentrated over not just inhabited but in fact some of Australia’s most densely populated residential areas. And, the same Brisbane residential areas overflown by departing aircraft on flight path I are also overflown by arriving aircraft on flight paths G, H1, and H2. Not only has Airservices broken all the original commitments and promises made to the community in 2006, it has also entirely removed SODPROPS from the “Preferred Runway Operations Top Priority” spot for daytime operations between 6am and 10pm in its final release of the Brisbane Airport noise abatement procedures released 21 May 2020.
Considering these significant and major changes to these air traffic control departure and arrival procedures, what measures – as stipulated in the 2007 Conditions of Ministerial Approval – did the Department require from Airservices and Brisbane Airport Corporation to ensure the community is kept informed of these changes?
As the proponent of the New Parallel Runway Major Development Plan, the Ministerial approval conditions were placed on the Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) and not Airservices Australia.
Condition 17 of the 2007 Conditions of Ministerial Approval of Brisbane Airport Corporation’s (BAC) New Parallel Runway Major Development Plan required BAC to develop and implement a strategy to keep the community informed on the development of the New Parallel Runway (NPR) as it proceeded.
Condition18(b)(i) required the community be kept informed of aircraft noise impacts associated with existing aircraft operations at the airport on the existing runway during the construction phase of the NPR.
Paragraph 18(b)(2) required BAC to establish a community awareness program that included information on the airport operating plan as approved by CASA and flight paths, at least one year prior to operations commencing on the NPR.
Compliance with the 2007 Conditions of Ministerial Approval was monitored through Condition 26, which required BAC to submit an annual progress report to the relevant Minister, including implementation of the public engagement strategy.
BAC and Airservices are members of the Brisbane Airport Community Aviation Consultation Group, a consultative forum designed to bring together government, the aviation industry, and the community to discuss a range of topics including aircraft noise, airport developments, airport operations and terminal access.
BAC also holds forums in affected suburbs and have a mobile information that travels around. Their community engagement team can be booked to attend meetings, town fairs and other community events.
Airservices will be undertaking a Post-Implementation Review (PIR) of Brisbane Airport operations from July 2021. The PIR will examine procedures for runway modes and noise abatement at Brisbane Airport to identify safe and practical operational improvements.
Additional Estimates 2020 / 2021
📺 Video recording: 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=536737Posted 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.
- For the period 12 July 2020 (opening of new runway) to 31 March 2021, 72 per cent of the arrivals and departures were directed over the bay between 10pm and 6am.
Brisbane Airport Corporation’s 2006 draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) provided the following forecast for proportion of over the bay operations at night (10am-6pm) [sic]:
Summer weekday night 73 per cent
Summer weekend night 79 per cent
Winter weekday night 78 per cent
Winter weekend night 82 per cent
Summer weekday night 62 per cent
Summer weekend night 72 per cent
Winter weekday night 67 per cent
Winter weekend night 70 per cent
- The average number of daily flight events at or above 70 decibels (dBA) at the New Farm, Bulimba, and Hamilton noise monitoring stations in December 2020 on a weekday between 6am and 6pm (to be consistent with EIS parameters) were:
· New Farm – 22
· Bulimba – 43
· Hamilton – 69
The forecast count of average daily flight events (jet and turbo prop) at or above 70dBA in 2006 draft EIS (based on N70 modelling):
· Summer weekday day (6am-6pm) in 2015: Hamilton 50+, Bulimba 20-49, New Farm 5-9
· Summer weekday day (6am-6pm) in 2035: Hamilton 50+, Bulimba 20-49, New Farm 5-19
New Farm has experienced a higher than projected volume of movements due to the impact of COVID-19 on Brisbane Airport runway operations.
- As at 8 April 2021, Brisbane Airport was at 55 per cent of pre COVID movements. New Farm, Bulimba and Hamilton are experiencing the following number of jet aircraft movements on any given day:
· Northerly Winds (Arrivals): An average of 34 jets per 24 hours
· Southerly Winds (Departures): An average of 26 jets per 24 hours.
When operations recover, New Farm, Bulimba and Hamilton can expect to receive the following number of jet aircraft movements on any given day:
· Northerly Winds (Arrivals): An average of 49 jets per 24 hrs
· Southerly Winds (Departures): An average of 45 jets per 24 hours.
This does not include turbo prop aircraft as these aircraft can fly instrument flight paths or use a visual approach.
- COVID-19 has resulted in operations at Brisbane Airport that are different to what would be experienced under full parallel runway operating conditions. Until the industry returns to stabilised levels of operations, we are not able to accurately assess the actual noise impacts compared to the modelled projections.
The New Farm noise monitor is located on the edge of New Farm Park next to the Brisbane River. Aircraft track over the river in this location to avoid flying directly over houses. As the noise monitor is next to the River, it records noise levels higher than would be experienced in the centre of New Farm.
The Brisbane Airport Corporation flight path tool “20 event N70 contour” includes the Brisbane River in this location and the line stops just short of the edge of New Farm Park where the noise monitor is located. Given the proximity of the noise monitor to the BAC “20 event N70 contour”, the current average noise events being reported on WebTrak is considered consistent with the BAC modelling.
- Brisbane Airport has a range of Noise Abatement Procedures (NAPs) in place and some of these apply to turbo props. Noise abatement procedures are not compulsory at Brisbane Airport.
- Airservices has no regulatory or enforcement powers. Air traffic control applies NAPs unless it is unsafe to do so.
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?
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.