New taskforce to address East Melbourne aircraft noise
Long-standing concerns about aircraft noise in East Melbourne have been heard at Parliament House in Canberra, with the federal government committing to establishing a taskforce aimed at improving outcomes for the community.
For years, East Melbourne residents have tirelessly fought against the effects of aircraft noise, which they say has impacted their daily lives and affected their overall wellbeing.
Concerns have included light aircraft and helicopters, most of which travel from Moorabbin and Essendon airports and fly over the suburb for joy flights or pilot training, as well as commercial airlines using flight paths to take off from and land at Tullamarine Airport.
The residents’ stance prompted the Aircraft Noise Ombudsman to investigate complaints about flight paths over East Melbourne, with a report in June 2021 making three recommendations accepted by Airservices Australia.
One of those recommendations said Airservices was to “continue its efforts to engage with the complainants to resolve their complaints including careful consideration of the alternate flight path suggested by them”.
The East Melbourne community has now achieved a significant step forward, particularly with the advocacy of federal Melbourne MP Adam Bandt, who had been instrumental in speaking out on the need to mitigate aircraft noise, with the federal government confirming in November it would establish a taskforce to address aircraft noise.
A departmental spokesperson said the taskforce, through the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts, “will work directly with aircraft operators, community groups, Airservices Australia and the operators of Moorabbin and Essendon airports to identify further steps to improve noise outcomes for East Melbourne communities”.
“While aviation supports our nation’s very way of life, from connecting communities to getting freight to markets, the Australian Government acknowledges that aircraft noise is an issue for communities in East Melbourne,” the spokesperson said.
In thanking the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Catherine King for creating a taskforce, Mr Bandt addressed Parliament House in Canberra on November 13, saying such a measure marked a turning point for the community “as a result of that community pressure, with the Greens working side by side”.
“There will now be a taskforce aimed at better understanding the issue and determining operating procedures that will better protect residents from overflight,” Mr Bandt said.
“There will be a very big difference if some changes to flight paths are made – not changes that push the problem onto other people but changes, for example, that could result in leisure flights flying down the [Yarra] river or over the rail yards instead of over the people’s houses, so everyone can still get a good look at Melbourne but not have an impact on residents”.
Changes to flight paths could see flights come in and turn at a different point that’s not over people’s houses, so again you don’t push the problem onto other people but ensure that resident amenity is protected.
Mr Bandt emphasised the negative consequences of aircraft noise, saying residents had spoken of their windows shaking and the effect it was having on people’s mental health.
“Some people have said to me, ‘It’s like it disrupts your ability to just live a normal life.’ This is not what people sign up for.”
Mr Bandt thanked members of the East Melbourne Group (EMG) and all residents “who have not taken no for an answer and have pushed and pushed”.
“We are starting to see progress. Now we need to see action.”
EMG president Greg Bisinella said it was pleasing to see “meaningful progress on this issue” and thanked Mr Bandt and Ms King for their efforts.
“We remain cautiously optimistic that this aircraft noise in East Melbourne taskforce will finally bring relief to residents who have had to endure the impacts of unnecessary aircraft noise over our suburb,” he said.
“We hope to achieve an outcome that mitigates the impacts of noise, not only over East Melbourne, but all suburbs.” •