Permit row grounds airfield

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THE future operation of the Tyabb airfield is up in the air following a stop work order issued by Mornington Peninsula Shire Council.

The shock directive, sent on Monday 3 June, came after the shire was unable to find permits subsequent to 1965 when the 50-year-old club was given the right to operate.

Tyabb Aero Club president Jack Vevers said on Friday the shire’s director of planning [David Bergin] “has obviously made a horrible mistake that has put well over 100 jobs at immediate risk”.

“We look forward to the council’s CEO [John Baker] resolving this matter as soon as possible.”

Mr Vevers said the aero club was seeking legal advice and had approached small business, innovation and trade minister Adem Somyurek to help find a resolution to an “administrative issue … that we are directing our attention to resolve”.

The mayor Cr David Gill told The News on Friday afternoon that the club “certainly seems to have some influence”, with departmental heads and ministers contacting shire officers to “see what’s going on”.

“They’ve never before been that interested in anything we do,” Cr Gill said.

It is believed the airfield’s original Shire of Hastings permit still applies. That permit allowed take-offs and landings of aircraft of less than 4500lbs; no flying during the 9.30-10.30am “holy hour”; no upsetting primary producers; and, not building a secondary airstrip or enlarging or extending the [existing] north-south airstrip “without the approval of the minister”.

The missing 1972 permit relating to the airfield’s current operations is at the core of the dispute. It affects the club’s right to use the land as an airport or airfield, conduct a flying school, act as a transport terminal, place of assembly, major sport or recreation facility, and major events facility, such as the air show. The order also affects the use of the east-west runway.

This latest salvo from the shire has made the row over flying during “holy hour” look inconsequential (“Aero club baulks at flying hours cut” The News 22/5/19).

“We wish to continue working closely and cohesively with our council for the common goal of supporting the local community as a whole, and are focusing our attention on a specific issue that entangles one particular department involving their abrupt and unnecessary actions,” Mr Vevers said.

“The planning department’s response to force a resolution could impact on a significant number of jobs and wellbeing of the community that we are addressing hastily.

“We believe strongly in unity in our community and will continue to work cohesively with all stakeholders and not represent any division nor jeopardise the reputation and operations of our local government due to any oversight or improper rulings made by a single representative.”

In April, a notice-of-motion moved by Cr Julie Morris and adopted unanimously “intended to recognise the urgent need to provide clarity around the current and future operation of the Tyabb Airfield”.

Seconded by Cr Hugh Fraser, the motion saw council appointing a Queen’s Counsel and junior to conduct a “full legal review, in order to provide clear information … regarding the conditions of all current planning permits currently applying to the Tyabb Airfield”.

The legal report is to be delivered to council by 30 June.

The motion also provided for officer briefings to council each quarter on the preparation of the Tyabb Airfield master plan and aircraft noise management plan, and before the end of December on all aspects of the Tyabb Airfield precinct plan (particularly the role of the Tyabb Airfield Community Reference Group).

Councillors also directed CEO John Baker “provide to council a document consolidating into one document the conditions of all current planning permits that … apply to the Tyabb Airfield”.

First published in the Mornington News – 11 June 2019

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