Pi­lots bat­tle plan to close Bruny strip

Sunday Tasmanian - - News - THEMERCURY.COM.AU DAVID KILLICK SUN­DAY JUNE 3 2018

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.

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