East Melbourne Group responds to opinion piece on aircraft issues

East Melbourne Group responds to opinion piece on aircraft issues

The East Melbourne Group (EMG) welcomes community engagement and debate about the issues impacting on the amenity of life in our suburb.

We are non-political and have regularly provided opportunities for candidates from all parties to present their views in the lead-up to local, state, and federal elections. The EMG regularly provides public opportunities for residents and others to discuss issues of concern to our community.

EMG has noted the opinion piece by Christopher Bantick, recently published in the Inner City News, and considers that the public interest is not served by an article which contains many inaccuracies and makes unfounded allegations about the motivations of EMG members.

For many years our local community has been engaging with various authorities to get some relief from the numerous flights over our homes by light aircraft and helicopters. The problem started about 10 years ago when there was deregulation, which changed the requirement for these aircraft to follow described routes along transport corridors, rail yards and Port Phillip Bay.

EMG has been advocating restoration of such flight paths to prevent low-flying light aircraft and helicopters, many of which do multiple circuits over our homes. We are also concerned about the safety issues, as training flights take place over one of the most densely-populated areas of Melbourne, and we are perturbed by reports of helicopter and light plane crashes around Australia.

While not all parts of East Melbourne are equally affected, many residents have told the EMG about their concerns at the noise and vibrations. There are residents who have said that conversations sometimes need to stop because of the noise of helicopters circulating over our area. The issue has been brought up at many public forums organised by EMG and there has always been strong support for the work being done to alleviate this problem.

The map above shows an example of just one helicopter doing numerous circuits over our homes.

To make things worse, more recently, the flight path for large passenger aircraft on the way to Tullamarine was changed, without any consultation with affected communities, which was subject to a scathing report by the Aircraft Noise Ombudsman. People are often disturbed by the roar of jets, including late into the night, as Tullamarine has no curfew.

The EMG has had advice from a resident, who is a doctor, about the human health impacts of flights, including stress, mental issues, impact on sleep and cardiovascular conditions. There is also a significant body of work in Australia and internationally confirming these deleterious impacts.

In EMG’s discussions with various authorities, it has always been recognised that safety is a key issue. Taking this into account, in collaboration with AirServices Australia and other official bodies, it has still been possible to identify potential flight paths which maintain safety but reduce the human impact on areas overflown.

In pursuing these problems, EMG has always made it clear, in writing, that there is no objection to emergency service helicopters and military aircraft, and Mr Bantick’s article is simply incorrect and offensive in asserting that we expect these services to skirt around our suburb.

More broadly than the work on the aircraft problems, the community has come together to engage on many other issues, including preservation of precious heritage. It is insulting to the many people who contribute to our community to call them self-centred.

People engage with the community not from a NIMBY perspective, but because of their commitment to preserving the qualities which make our suburb so special. Many people who have moved to East Melbourne, as well as established residents have remarked on the high level of community interaction, through EMG and a range of other significant community organisations.

East Melbourne residents have regularly demonstrated that they are willing to extend the hand of friendship to their neighbours, but this requires a reciprocal response rather than disgruntled sniping. •

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