Gold Coast Airport’s plans for an Instrument Landing System in limbo.
Gold Coast Airport’s plans for an Instrument Landing System in limbo. Gold Coast Airport

Airport’s ILS plan comes to a halt

A CONCERTED legal effort by opponents of the Gold Coast Airport plan to build an ILS (Instrument Landing System) has delayed start of construction.

Airport management is adamant the ILS should be in operation before the influx of visitors for the Commonwealth Games in 2018.

But the Tugun Cobaki Alliance (TCA), Gold Coast Lifestyle Association and Palm Beach resident John Hicks have put in requests to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for “stay orders” on the airport’s ILS development.

A hearing to deal with the requests will be heard on June 23 in Brisbane, delaying the ILS start-of-construction date which was set down for mid-June.

TCA spokeswoman Lindy Smith said the alliance’s legal action was based on environmental factors – disturbance of soil and water, and destruction of wetlands, salt marsh and fishing habitat.

“As a community, we’re up against huge teams of barristers and all that,” Ms Smith said.

“Evidence to date is that there was no consideration or assessment of PFC (perfluorinated compounds) chemical contamination (before ILS approval in January).”

Airservices Australia, a government-run entity that oversees airport operations, advises that from the early 1980s until the early 2000s, a firefighting foam called 3M Lightwater was used at all Australian airports, including the Gold Coast Airport.

This product is now known to contain PFCs. Since 2010, Airservices has used a PFC-free foam called Solberg RF6.

An aerial shot of Gold Coast Airport.
An aerial shot of Gold Coast Airport. Gold Coast Airport

An Airservices spokeswoman said preliminary assessments had confirmed the presence of PFC residues within soil, sediment and groundwater at the fire-fighting training ground at Gold Coast Airport.

“Airservices has established a groundwater monitoring program at Gold Coast Airport and continues to use these results in ongoing work at the airport,” she said.

“There is no evidence to date that indicates drinking water sources have been affected.

“Airservices continues to work with the Commonwealth and state health and environment departments, regulators, policy experts, airport operators and researchers to develop solutions to manage PFC contamination.

“Advice from Australian health authorities state that whether PFOS or PFOA cause health problems in humans is currently unknown but, on current evidence from studies in animals, the potential for adverse health effects cannot be excluded.”  

Ms Smith will also lobby for an independent investigation into PFC contamination at the Coolangatta airport.

Gold Coast Airport chief operating officer Marion Charlton said any testing the airport had undertaken to date and in the future had been conducted by independent, third party consultants.

Gold Coast Airport CEO Marion Charlton.
Gold Coast Airport CEO Marion Charlton. Contributed

TCA organised a public meeting last night in South Tweed highlighting the risks of PFC contamination.

About 60 people attended the meeting.

Keynote speaker Dr Mariann Lloyd-Smith, a National Toxics Network senior advisor, chose the topic “PFOS and PFOA – Emerging Contaminants and Old Enemies”.

She said the community should expect a full assessment of the contamination, and that people and animals should be excluded from the contaminated site.

Ms Charlton has said areas currently known to have a PFOS presence are all within the confines of the airport secure zone, which are not publicly accessible.

Dr Lloyd-Smith said a number of technologies were being trialled to clean up the PFC contaminants.

“These are chemicals I have been working on, both internationally and nationally, for 20 years,” she said.

PFCs were used in the past in consumer products like Teflon and Scotchguard.

“They don’t break down easily,” Dr Lloyd-Smith said.

“They build up in living things. They’re passed from mother to child.

“The developing foetus is particularly sensitive to PFOS and PFOA toxicity.

“Acceptable levels are going down dramatically.”

Greens MP Adam Bandt said at the meeting there were no binding standards about what was safe in regards to PFCs.

“The onus is on the people who want to go ahead with the (airport) development to prove it’s safe,” he said.

“It should be up to the government to demonstrate it’s safe before they go ahead.”

Gold Coast Airport management says an ILS is necessary to provide the airport with the same technology that is already installed in Australia’s other leading airports.

The system is touted to boost reliability, reduce disruptions to passengers’ journeys, and help to make the Gold Coast a more appealing and reliable tourism and business destination. 

In its objection to the ILS in July last year, the TCA stated: “The footprint of the proposed ILS development is on the coastal lowlands of the Lower Tweed River Estuary (Cobaki Broadwater) on both Commonwealth land and the NSW Crown Reserve granted for the purpose of public recreation/conservation.

“Substantial works are proposed to occur on the NSW Reserve along the shore of the estuary.

“The proposed ILS is obsolete and unnecessarily intrusive, unneighbourly and destructive of unique high-value environment and heritage, when there are other non-intrusive safe-landing systems available for the intended purpose.

“The installation of the proposed ILS will result in unnecessary, unacceptable negative impact on coastal landscapes, water resources, landscapes and soils, people and on communities.”

A plane take off from Gold Coast Airport.
A plane take off from Gold Coast Airport. Scott Powick


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