20 December 2021

Community ignored in NCA's 'shockingly premature' seaplanes decision, say Lake Guardians

| Ian Bushnell
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The Sydney Seaplane Cessna Caravan comes in to land on Lake Burley Griffin during last year’s test flight. Photos: Thomas Lucraft.

The National Capital Authority’s green light for seaplanes on Lake Burley Griffin, despite strong opposition, has been slammed as “shockingly premature and an abrogation of its responsibilities”.

The Lake Burley Griffin Guardians said the discussion paper had been a kite-flying exercise without any detailed analyses of the proposal’s impacts. The group had expected a detailed proposal and consultation before any approval.

LBGG convenor Irene Davies said the NCA only seemed to be listening to those with a very narrow commercial interest, such as a few interstate tourism operators and their affluent customers.

Ms Davies doubted whether the claimed boost to tourism would be that significant.

“The NCA seems to be acting more as a proponent for the introduction of seaplanes rather than the impartial regulatory body for Lake Burley Griffin,” she said.

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When the NCA announced the first demonstration flight by Sydney Seaplanes a year ago, NCA Board Chair Terry Weber said, “The demonstration flight will not only break new ground but will open the National Capital to further business and tourism opportunities”.

The Guardians say this implied support for the proposal even at that early stage.

Ms Davies said the NCA had made its decision before many of the operational, safety, infrastructure, environmental and commercial issues had been appropriately addressed.

She labelled “pathetic” a plan to hire a consultant to compile guidelines to accommodate seaplanes and current lake users such as the yachting and paddling communities.

Sally Barnes talking to media

NCA chief executive Sally Barnes talks to reporters, with Sydney Seaplanes managing director Aaron Shaw on her right, NCA Chair Terry Weber, left, and Senator Zed Seselja at last year’s demonstration flight.

The consultation report showed only 20 per cent of respondents supported the proposal and 67 per cent were against it, with others neutral, mixed or needing more information, the group said.

In its submission, the Canberra Yacht Club, a key lake user, said that seaplanes could threaten its viability.

The Guardians want a detailed cost-benefit analysis that considers the costs of infrastructure, of yet more reductions in the land and water estate held in trust for public National Capital purposes, and the loss of amenity Canberrans would face.

Ms Davies said that with at least two seaplane services operating, there could be up to eight flights a day that would interfere with other lake users, including those on the foreshores, and their quiet enjoyment of the amenity.

She said increasing densification in Canberra and the pandemic had highlighted the value of the lake as a recreational area and retreat.

“As Canberra densifies, it’s very important the lake is retained as a quiet area for people’s recreation and escape from an increasingly densely occupied city,” Ms Davies said.

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While Sydney Seaplanes’ plans to move to electric-powered planes, if viable, would alleviate the noise factor, that many flights would still have significant impacts, she said.

The Guardians have described the lake as being at a tipping point and this proposal represents a significant change in its role and function.

“There’s going to be increased pressure from the powerboat owners to also have access,” Ms Davies said.

She also believed the safety issues needed to be looked at more closely.

Ms Davies has reiterated calls for a review of the NCA, its roles and functions, particularly in the wake of the War Memorial redevelopment consultations and now this decision.

“It is an indication that community voices are not being given weighting on the board of the NCA and that’s a problem,” Ms Davies said.

“We don’t believe it’s taking community concerns into account in its decision making.”

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I wouldn’t worry too much about it. It’s a gimmick, and will last months, if not weeks, before the operator discovers the novelty has worn off for potential customers, and nobody uses it.

How do these self appointed LBGG clowns get so much air time? Another fake representative group with just a handful of voices at best – which in this case most don’t even live here.

Would love to see more focus on genuine engagement by Canberra media in general with people that actually live here – give the ordinary person a genuine voice, not some self appointed people that pretend to talk for many, but in reality don’t.

Capital Retro10:12 am 22 Dec 21

If it was an ES (Electric Seaplane) the 100% renewable obsessed ACT government would provide them with a $100K supercharger for free.

Slower moving bike riders and pedestrians are considered vulnerable road users and are protected. On LBG will the same apply?
Will kayakers and small sail boats be protected from sea planes landing on or near them? Or are they intending to “sell off” or restrict access to the lake for the benefit of the sea plane operators?

Allowing sea planes is only a step away from allowing power boats and jet skis. It’s the same argument: it encourages tourism.

I’m intrigued by some people’s idea LBG is under-utilised. Go early and you’ll see kayaks, sculls, dragonboats and paddleboards skimming around. When the wind comes up later in the day, the CYC, YMCASC, ADFA and Scout sailboats come out. The windsurfers appear when strong winds do. There’s pedal-boats and picnic boats around the water jet. It’s the top picnic and playground destination, most popular walk and second most popular bike ride in town. And the proposal is that all that should stop a few times a day for a carload of rich tourists, basically a total of one bus-load a day in peak seaon. Hardly worth it.

The NCA is acting with complete arrogance and contempt for the views of Canberra.
“The consultation report showed only 20 per cent of respondents supported the proposal and 67 per cent were against it”
Lake users have said NO and that is enough reason for the NCA to inform the interstate tourism operators with their affluent priviledged customers, where to stick their seaplane.
The second reason why the proposal is flawed is that vested private commercial interests must not be given exclusive access rights to a well used public resource like LBG.
The third (safety) reason why the seaplane proposal should sink is that the landing/takeoff area is used by small craft, which on windy/wavey days will not hear an approaching plane.
A better place for a seaplane is Lake George, or possibly the straight stretch of the Molonglo River behind Pialligo.

Stephen Saunders5:18 am 21 Dec 21

Falling over themselves for special interests of the defence industry or boutique seaplanes. But readily endorsed the ASIO eyesore, completely unhelpful over ACT light rail, and no use at all against the wabbit plague. What exactly is NCA for, and who does it serve? They’re just a straw in the wind. Abolish them.

This is one of your best Stephen.

Apparently the NCA are now responsible for rabbits. LOL.

That time of year where the whacky posts just get whackier.

Those in the city worried about noise?

Oddly many of those in the Friends of LBG live down the coast. They would prefer Canberra, where they no longer live remains as it did in the 60’s and 70’s.

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