Pilots battle plan to close Bruny strip
THE state’s top scenic flight operator has offered to help continue the operation of the airstrip on Bruny Island, saying Kingborough Council’s plans to close it will reduce safety and hurt tourism operators.
The council has rejected three expressions of interest to take over the airstrip and is on track to order its closure, despite pushback from the community and local pilots.
The land was originally donated to the Bruny Island community and the airstrip built by community volunteers before being transferred to Kingborough Council in 1993.
But the council says it has to maintain the strip and has an independent report saying it needs major safety upgrades.
Shannon Wells, managing director of award-winning Par Avion, which owns and operates Cambridge aerodrome, said closing the airstrip would remove a vital alternative landing site in emergencies.
“Closing this airstrip means that for flights to and from Bathurst Harbour there are no alternatives available for pilots to land in case of emergency or poor weather,” he said.
“This greatly concerns me from a safety point of view, and it seems paradoxical that closing this aerodrome will make aviation more dangerous.”
Mr Wells has written to the council asking to keep the airstrip open, to reconsider the expressions of interest and offering to help out himself if all else fails.
Peter Steininger from Island Scenic Flights has in recent years operated a tourism business from the strip. He could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Kingborough Mayor Steve Wass said the airstrip needed $250,000 worth of improvements, wasn’t required for emergency services and no suitable operator had come forward to take it over.
“Is this something we should spend public money on for one or two or three people to get the use out of? We don’t believe it is,” he said.
“Our decision is that we will close it, announce that and seek reasons from the community as to why we should not close it.”
Cr Wass said the council was open to offers to buy the land or take over the expense of the airstrip.
Labor MP for Franklin David O’Byrne said the airstrip should be retained.
“The airstrip is an important community asset for the island and I would encourage the council to look at all avenues to retain it. It is important not only for passenger transport but has been vital in fire surveillance operations and firefighting operations in the past,” he said.
Kingborough Council’s consultation on the future of the airstrip runs until June 29.