Aero club tries to short circuit


PENINSULA Aero Club has asked Mornington Peninsula Shire’s 11 councillors to help find a “circuit-breaker” to resolve its ongoing dispute with the shire over operations at Tyabb Airfield.

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal is scheduled to begin a hearing in April, but the PAC’s president Jack Vevers has invited the just-elected councillors to a meeting at the airfield on Sunday (22 November).

Mr Vevers issued a statement last week saying the shire has no evidence to support its claims “and is destined for another loss in VCAT [and] another waste of ratepayers’ money”.

Cr Paul Mercurio has urged his fellow councillors to “make the effort to accept and attend the briefing” with Mr Vevers. “It is important that we hear from all sides so we understand all of the issues and can ask the appropriate questions,” Cr Mercurio said in an email to his colleagues.

He estimated the “briefing” would take two hours “or so” and “bring us up to speed from PAC point of view and better ready us” for an official council briefing two days later.

Cr Steve Holland told The News he had sought advice from shire CEO John Baker and would be briefed by shire officers about the airfield dispute. “Following this briefing, I may decide that it is not appropriate to meet with Mr Vevers and the PAC.”

Re-elected councillor Hugh Fraser said the invitation provided “an excellent opportunity” for councillors to see operations at Tyabb airfield and to “better understand the briefing and evidence to be provided by council management and the community”.

The PAC was the only organisation to issued how-to-vote advice during the October council elections placing Cr Mercurio in the number one spot for Watson Ward along with Lisa Dixon (Cerberus) and Anthony Marsh (Briars) (“Deadline close for most unusual poll” The News 13/10/20).

Mr Vevers, in an email to councillors, said he had postponed his original invite from Sunday 15 November “after talking with Cr Mercurio, as well as feedback from a couple of you”.

In his original invitation to councillors, Mr Vevers said some VCAT hearings had supported PAC’s position, but had been “a huge cost to the shire’s ratepayers and PAC “and has not achieved any of what we understand to be the shire’s objectives” (“Turbulence ahead despite aero club’s win” The News 8/9/20).

“We are hopeful that the new council will provide an opportunity to find a circuit breaker to establish a more respectful and peaceful pathway to resolution of this situation.”

Mr Vevers said the PAC had “been made aware” that previous councillors had been given “little information of our side of the story”.

Meeting at the airfield would provide the new councillors with “the opportunity to share [Pac’s] view” so they could “consider the situation in an informed and balanced way”.

“PAC is committed to finding a resolution to this situation which will allow the airport to continue to operate successfully for the next half century and beyond,” Mr Vevers said.

The VCAT hearing scheduled for April follows the findings of a Queen’s Counsel hired by the shire in April 2019 to conduct a “full legal review, in order to provide clear information … regarding the conditions of all current planning permits currently applying to the Tyabb Airfield” (“Shire, aero club head for VCAT showdown” The News 18/8/20).

The QC’s findings led to the shire issuing an order in June 2019 which virtually shut down the airport and its ancillary businesses. The businesses were later told they could resume work, but that “necessary” permits would be required.

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 17 November 2020


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