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Call for drones to be banned from Canberra Nature Park

Ian Bushnell 10 October 2019 28
Flying drones in the evening sky.

Recreational drones and the Canberra Nature Park are incompatible, say nature groups. Photos: File.

The flying of recreational drones in the Canberra Nature Park should be banned, according to nature groups concerned at their adverse effects on birdlife.

President of the Red Hill Regenerators Ross Kingsland has written to Environment Minister Mick Gentleman backing a call from Waltraud Pix from the Friends of Mt Majura for the remotely piloted aircraft to be banned after two incidents in the Red Hill Nature Reserve, including one instance when drones were being raced.

Ms Pix had reached out to Canberra’s nature groups in response to the Red Hill flights and Mr Kingsland said it did not seem compatible to have that sort of activity uncontrolled in the Nature Park.

“If people are doing something that was advantageous for the nature reserve, research or study or something needed for utilities that’s a different matter,” she said.

But the noise of the drone propellers and the potential for collisions were problems for wildlife.

“The birdlife, some of them are quite sensitive to human interaction, it’s something that needs to be looked at pretty closely,” she said.

In the letter to Mr Gentleman, Mr Kingsland says Red Hill Nature Reserve is home to many birds including some rarely found in Canberra and the use of drones is likely to have a significant effect on them.

”The drones would also affect the hundreds of people that regularly use the Reserve for walking,” he says.

An ACT Government spokesperson said the Canberra Nature Park Draft Reserve Management Plan, released for public comment on 23 September, proposed to prohibit the flying of drones in Canberra Nature Park.

“Under this proposal, operation of drones may still be approved for some purposes, such as conservation research, through a licence granted under the Nature Conservation Act,” the spokesperson said.

“If drones were prohibited from use in ACT nature parks and reserves, a Conservation Officer would be able to issue the operator with an Infringement Notice and would also be able to commence prosecution action for more serious cases.”

Greens leader Shane Rattenbury said it was important to find the right balance to allow people to enjoy outdoor recreation without inappropriately impacting the natural environment.

“Civil aviation laws largely prevent people using drones in the urban environment, so naturally people seek to use them in nature reserves and other non-urban areas. It’s important to identify appropriate places where people can fly drones recreationally without disproportionately impacting local communities and wildlife,” he said.

He said research about drones’ impact on wildlife was still emerging and he called on drone operator Wing to release its research, which it had deemed commercial-in-confidence, to help the public have an informed debate on these issues.

The call for recreational drones to be banned from the Canberra Nature Park comes as the Federal Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development undertakes a review of noise regulation in response to the concerns raised by the delivery operations of Google subsidiary Wing in Canberra and the subsequent Legislative Assembly inquiry.

Wing is currently running a delivery service out of its Mitchell base to Gungahlin suburbs. A trial in Tuggeranong prompted a storm of complaints about noise and privacy, leading to the inquiry and an admission by the department that Wing had been flying in a regulatory vacuum and that commercial and recreational drone operations within Australia require approvals under Federal aviation rules.

A Wing drone

A Wing drone: the company has already toned down the noise the aircraft generate.

A discussion paper issued by the department suggests that it might be better for the states and territories to regulate drone noise, despite the fact that aircraft, even if of such small size, are involved.

“Many drones are not like other aircraft with the ability for drones to operate far closer to people on the ground and operating shorter distances than other aircraft,” it says.

“The proximity of drone operations to the community in built-up and residential areas raises the question of whether states/territories or local government are better placed than the Commonwealth government to regulate drones in terms of their suburban noise intrusion, which could be achieved by amending the Regulations to permit the application of state or territory laws to noise emitted by all/some drones.”

It also says states and territories, which already deal with noise under environmental rules, are arguably better placed to take compliance and enforcement action against people generating an unacceptable noise impact using established regimes not available to the Australian Government.

“However a challenge with drones is that the person responsible for the immediate noise, ie the drone operator, is not always easily identified and the offending drone may quickly depart before apprehension by compliance officers. The CASA drone registration scheme may, once in place, assist in identifying individuals or businesses operating drones,” the paper says.

“Drone regulation by States and Territories might be more suited to certain aspects of drone delivery operations, eg noise around the sites where delivery products (eg food) are being prepared and where the products are actually delivered.”

The review aims to determine the appropriate scope and breadth of future noise regulation as drone operations continue to increase.

The ACT Government would not be drawn on the discussion paper’s proposals and the spokesperson said it would await the outcome of the review. It would be making a submission.

The department will be accepting submissions to the noise review until close of business Friday, 22 November 2019. To make a submission go here.


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28 Responses to Call for drones to be banned from Canberra Nature Park
Guy Speake Guy Speake 8:34 am 12 Oct 19

Most of Canberra is already a no-fly zone. What more do you nazis want?

Claudine Norton Claudine Norton 12:14 am 12 Oct 19

Had one follow my while walking my dog....wish I had a shotgun!

Mohammed Islam Fahim Mohammed Islam Fahim 10:39 pm 11 Oct 19

There are no dearth of killjoys in this world. They should better try to have some fun and may be enjoy their life

Andrea Wild Andrea Wild 11:13 am 11 Oct 19

Aha. That’s the former head of CSIRO Education.

Grimm 11:08 am 11 Oct 19

I’m sure “Legislate against and ban everything fun” rattenbury is already on it.

Mike Diy Mike Diy 10:05 am 11 Oct 19

Ban everything im not personally interested in.

Acton 8:16 am 11 Oct 19

There is precedent for banning drones from national parks. I recently visited Barrenjoey lighthouse in the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park north of Sydney where drones are banned. This allows visitors to enjoy the walk and spectacular views, without the irritation of buzzing toys being flown by a selfish minority. Bring it on.

Damien Stewart Damien Stewart 12:47 am 11 Oct 19

I'm split on this. I've been flying a Mavic air for a year, which was principally for photography. Send it high, snap some cool panoramas, get some panning footage, which looks better when flying *slowly*. I now avoid flying in frequently used nature reserves, like Red Hill - saw wild eagles on a run which was fantastic...I like them, and don't want to interfere...

Now wanting to get into FPV flying, which is all about flying fast and a lot lower - big open space seems best...

My point is, different craft and flying styles need perhaps more granular rules...hard to divvy up though...

Banning take off from the reserves though will mean people will likely flaunt the visual line of sight rule to take off outside boundaries and fly over, which may increase the odds of a crash etc.

I get the noise argument though. Which is why I normally push to the 120m limit, where it's hard to hear it.

Michael Dillon Michael Dillon 8:17 pm 10 Oct 19

Those drones are pretty awsome.

Im going to fpv a hotliner WICKED😀

Noel Benjamin Noel Benjamin 7:50 pm 10 Oct 19

What a mindless activity for those seeking a hobby!!!

    Shan Badowski Shan Badowski 6:45 pm 11 Oct 19

    It’s photography? A hobby and a profession that is only growing. A drone just gives a better perspective.

    Matt Turtles Matt Turtles 8:52 pm 11 Oct 19

    Noel Benjamin calm down Mr Judgemental, everyone likes different things. Some people like poetry, some people like cats, some people like drones.

    Adam Bramwell Adam Bramwell 1:22 pm 12 Oct 19

    Matt you’re doing a stellar job keeping the internet under control. Big job.

    Matt Turtles Matt Turtles 6:01 pm 12 Oct 19

    Adam Bramwell thanks - i'd be happy to deputise you if you want to help

    Noel Benjamin Noel Benjamin 10:16 pm 12 Oct 19

    Matt Turtles A banal response, but then it does not take much thought to be pejorative!!!

Warwick Penn Bradly Warwick Penn Bradly 7:28 pm 10 Oct 19

And where is the evidence?? Anecdotally, any time I fly a drone, most birds barely seem to notice and continue about their bird business. Biggest threat is more to the drone from wedge tailed eagles.

Anura Samara Anura Samara 5:51 pm 10 Oct 19

At the current rate, I might just be able to use a drone in my wardrobe at home - subject to proper licencing of course.

    Joshua McTackett Joshua McTackett 11:59 pm 11 Oct 19

    Anura Samara accurate. Did you see that insane video with Peter McKinnon about flying drones in Canada?

    Anura Samara Anura Samara 10:58 am 12 Oct 19

    Joshua McTackett not yet. I’ll look it up. I’m concerned that anything new is being stamped on immediately.

    Tim Abberton Tim Abberton 2:27 pm 15 Oct 19

    Unfortunately some drone owners give the rest of us a bad name. My battery lasts only 15 minutes and I never fly in busy tourist areas or where tranquility should be expected.

Baron Conor Merrigan Baron Conor Merrigan 5:16 pm 10 Oct 19

At this point would it not be easier to say everything is banned and just release the small list of not banned activities and hobbies? Because this just seems like a waste of time

Michael Ahern Michael Ahern 2:57 pm 10 Oct 19

Bring on the Fun Police 🚨! Dealing with the big issues in Canberra.....

Kylie Louise Bailey Kylie Louise Bailey 1:15 pm 10 Oct 19

They are banned in most other national parks - they're a pest and should also be banned here.

Ian McLeod Ian McLeod 1:11 pm 10 Oct 19

I reserve my right to hose them down when I see one or throw a bird net over it.

FFS let people have some peace.

I encourage everyone to do the same. Take water pistols.

Justin Mendham Justin Mendham 12:53 pm 10 Oct 19

Surely Mt Majura is controlled airspace?

As for banning them.... Lighten up sook.

    Justin Watson Justin Watson 2:47 pm 10 Oct 19

    Drones under 100g can be flown within 5.5 kms of an airport or you have permission and licenses to do so. Some of the cheaper drones are light enough to get around the rule, but they typically are also quieter and not the ones people complain about.

    Robert Honeybone Snr Robert Honeybone Snr 4:52 pm 10 Oct 19

    Justin Mendham Agree

    Scott Dillon Scott Dillon 7:15 pm 10 Oct 19

    Drones were being raced, thats awesome when does this happen and can anyone come along to watch ?

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