Aircraft Noise Ombudsman report savages Airservices flightpath rollout

Aircraft Noise Ombudsman (ANO) Narelle Bell has released a report which comprehensively outlines Airservices Australia's failure to properly conduct a noise impact assessment and consult with communities in the rollout of the new concentrated Hobart flightpaths.

The ANO also noted that Airservices has not demonstrated its compliance with legal obligations to determine the impact on communities under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, casting doubt on whether the change was made lawfully.

The report found:

Airservices’ recent performance in community consultation in Hobart has been well below modern standards of practice. The handling of the Hobart flight path changes including the absence of (or, in Airservices’ view, “inadequate”) consultation before the changes were implemented; the conflation of the notions of informing and consulting; the limited and incomplete information presented to the CACG, the media, complainants and MPs; the confusion created by the slow and uncoordinated feeding of relevant information to the community once complaints began to be made; the rushed nature of the remedial consultation; the appearance of a lack of transparency in the construction and presentation of the alternative flight paths and the inappropriate dependence on CACGs as the primary site of Airservices’ community consultation, point to a failure to apply its own systems and policies

Although Airservices has accepted the ANO's recommendations, the ANO has concluded:

We are concerned about Airservices’ capacity to consult effectively once a risk is identified, particularly in light of the standard of the remedial consultation done by Airservices following the relative flood of complaints about Hobart. The expression of its Terms of Reference for its Hobart Flight Path Review, its failure to consult the community on those terms of reference and its stated intention to defer consultation until it has settled findings and recommendations show a fundamental lack of understanding and skill that must be remedied if Airservices is to recover its relationship with the community and be in a position to meet the imminent challenge of concentrated and accelerated airport development.

Given the report's finding, and Airservices response, we have no faith that the proposed consultation will be adequate or genuine. We continue to call on Airservices to restore the flight paths to the pre-September arrangements as an indication of good faith and a means to provide noise relief while a comprehensive consultation and review is conducted.