The Canberra Yacht Club has hoisted a number of red flags about proposals for seaplane flights to Lake Burley Griffin, saying the operations may sink the 62-year-old institution.
In a submission to the National Capital Authority’s consultation on a discussion paper, the club says seaplanes in the western part of the Lake threaten its operational and financial viability, and therefore its continued existence.
If there have to be seaplanes on the Lake, the club argues that Central Basin would be a preferable location given the operations would not disrupt events, and it offered two potentially more attractive jetty locations for embarking and landing passengers.
The discussion paper canvasses proposals from Sydney Seaplanes and South Coast Seaplanes to run services to Canberra.
Sydney Seaplanes, which operated a test flight last December, is proposing four daily services between Rose Bay and Canberra, two of which would land on and take off from the lake, tying up at the dock near the National Museum of Australia.
The test flight involved a single-engine Cessna Caravan, but the company plans to use the bigger, two-engine amphibious Twin Otter operated by two pilots and carrying a maximum of 14 passengers.
It would land on the Lake at 10:00 am, departing at 10:30 am, with the next landing at 3:30 pm, departing at 4:00 pm. Each landing and take-off would involve the aircraft manoeuvring on the Lake for about five minutes, a total of 20 minutes per day.
South Coast Seaplanes initially would offer short scenic flights around Canberra, using single-engine Maule aircraft, but look to introduce packaged products, particularly targeted at international tourists, including direct connections with tourist attractions on the South Coast and in the Snowy Mountains.
Flights would initially be limited to two a day, one or two days a week between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm in summer months, with reduced hours in the winter.
The yacht club says seaplanes in West Basin would disrupt local, state and national regattas and its sailing school and two inclusion programs – the all-abilities Sailability and Buoyed Up, which caters to vulnerable children.
The club took aim at the NCA for glossing over heritage aspects, a “selective and inadequate coverage” of concerns and for not following up on those concerns in developing the discussion paper.
The NCA engaged GLM Heritage to report on the demonstration flight. It concluded that the noise and general disturbance to the Lake did have a minor adverse impact on the heritage values of the Lake, but the infrequency of operations and temporary nature meant the degree of impact was minimal.
The Yacht Club says it is prepared to work with the NCA and seaplane operators to identify workable options, alternatives, and arrangements to address its concerns and mitigate the proposal’s ‘significant’ risks.
If operating from Central Basin is not possible, the club says there will need to be actions to mitigate the safety risks and adverse impacts on its business, including safe areas during seaplane operations, notifications of take-offs and landings, limiting seaplane operations during racing days, alternative flight times, and takeoffs and landings closer to Black Mountain Peninsula.
Sydney Seaplanes, which operates out of Rose Bay, believes it has the experience to negotiate lake traffic and not disrupt other users.
The NCA says that after the demonstration flight, many people could see the benefits of such a service, including not having to contend with airports, time savings, an alternative travel option between Canberra and Sydney, and the potential to promote tourism to the National Capital and engage businesses such as accommodation providers, restaurants and attractions.
The main concerns included safety impacts, the inconvenience to other Lake users for the direct benefit of only a few, noise, the potential precedence that might be set in allowing more motorised craft on the Lake, and disturbing the existing peaceful nature of the Lake.
If the NCA decides to continue, it will conduct more consultation on the issues raised, and seaplane operators will be required to apply for a licence to operate on the Lake, any other permits and submit a Works Approval for infrastructure such as mooring.
The discussion paper is open to comments until 22 June and can be found on the NCA website.