• An aerial image showing the area of the northern apron lost under the 2015 master plan (red) and the section flagged for redevelopment under the 2021 master plan. (MAC - modified by Australian Flying)
    An aerial image showing the area of the northern apron lost under the 2015 master plan (red) and the section flagged for redevelopment under the 2021 master plan. (MAC - modified by Australian Flying)

City of Kingston council has called for the Moorabbin Airport Draft Master Plan to be rejected because it puts a priority on non-aviation commercial development.

The master plan, which is under consultation until February, has come under fire from several quarters because it envisages the loss of more aviation infrastructure.

City of Kingston is the municipal area that surrounds the airport, with councillors expressing concerns in the past over the ambitions of airport lease-holder Goodman Group.

City of Kingston Mayor Steve Staikos testified before the Senate Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport (RRAT) inquiry into the general aviation industry yesterday, slamming Goodman Group for creating an "expansive" non-aviation commercial airport that has compromised Moorabbin's ability to operate as a critical training airport.

"In the case of Moorabbin Airport, council believes that the airport lessee company is failing its legislative requirements, which seek to ensure that an efficient and fully-functioning airport ... which priority is placed on core aviation needs both now and into the medium to long term.

"It is now a unique situation where privatised airport leaseholders are able to hold unique and often unregulated monopoly powers, which can negatively impact the aviation industry and side-step state and local planning powers.

"Non-aviation development can completely disregard existing residential neighbours ... with no checks or balances available.

"Council is calling on the Minister for Infrastructure to refuse the plan in its current form."

Staikos accused the airport's leaseholders of ignoring the requirements of the Airports Act 1996, whilst continuing to "persue extensive non-aviation development."

City of Kingston raised concerns about how the commerical developments were being approved whilst aviation tenants on Moorabbin Airport had decreased in number and floorspace, and given no support in infrastructure, suggesting an inquiry into the handling of federally-leased airports.

Staikos said that Moorabbin Airport was becoming "a business park with an airport in the middle."

Inquiry chair Senator Susan McDonald then placed the issue of federally-leased airports before Janet Quigley, First Assistant Secretary of the Department of Infrastructure and Transport, asking Quigley what safeguards were in place for the aviation community when it came to approving master plans.

"The master planning process is the primary vehicle in which we engage with the airports in terms of their development activities," Quigley said. "We have a number of touch-points that happen through that process in terms of engaging with CASA on safety aspects ... dealing with Airservices in terms of the operationalisation of those plans.

"At the moment Moorabbin as you know is going through a review of the master plan ... We have worked with them to give them an extension on the consultation timeframe so we can ensure that there is sufficient time to engage with stakeholders, and we've also been dealing with and talking to some of the stakeholders directly as well.

"What we've been doing is encouraging them to engage with this process, because when we do get the master plan proposal ... it will have to outline all of the discussions or proposals that they've received and they've done to address those.

"We'll use that as the basis of our analysis when we put our recommendation to the DPM for his final approval."

Quigley said that the first point of focus was the ability of the lessee's master plan to continue to operate the airport as an airport, and that the Department was due to meet with City of Kingston in the last week in December.

Senator McDonald said she felt that commercial development at federally-leased airports had resulted in "the very core of the business, the life-blood of what makes aviation work, [being] driven off."

"And where to? Well, it won't be anywhere that services aviation because the more distant regional you get the less people that you're servicing, the more difficult for training, the more difficult for maintenance.

"I think this is a very serious issue as a nation, not just national security but the fundamentals of what we believe in of aviation ... this is a turning point and we either hold the ground or we may as well just bulldoze every airfield, let them build Ikea's and Bunnings and be done with it."

Senator McDonald told the Department that she felt they were the last line of defence and if a the Department didn't make a very clear stand then no-one else would.

Department representatives also said they considered the sustainability of the airport when approving master plans, but admitted under questioning that they didn't have access to the leaseholder's financials, which Senator Glenn Sterle thought compromised their ability to assess the sustainability properly.

The RRAT committee has no more hearings in the pipeline and is scheduled to table the final inquiry report in March next year.


comments powered by Disqus