PENINSULA Aero Club has won its battle for legitimacy after the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal declared that Tyabb Airport does have permit rights to operate.
After years of tension over planning controls around the airport and residents’ complaints about its operating hours, the aero club went to Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal in September and then in March 2022 to seek a declaration that its permits authorise its operation.
PAC president Jack Vevers said the tribunal ruling last week (5 October) was a fantastic win for PAC and everyone at the airport.
In a statement, Vevers told supporters he had “great pleasure to inform you that we have received the much-awaited decision by VCAT in relation to our application for a declaration of our permits”.
“VCAT has declared that we are an airport and have always been an airport, which is consistent with the planning scheme definition of a transport terminal,” he said.
“We can continue to operate as we have done previously, which includes the use of the east-west runway, fly at night, operate a flying school, sell fuel, operate both fixed wing aeroplanes and helicopters, and run air shows.”
The ruling means that only aircraft over 2041 kilograms are subject to a night curfew (except in the case of emergency) and are prohibited from using the east-west runway. Other key outcomes include permission for small aircraft to fly at night, use of the airport for planes and helicopters, limitations around movements of large aircraft (over 4500 pounds) and clarity around definitions of “night”, “emergency” and “airport”.
Vevers said it “puts to bed for once and for all the question of our legitimacy to be an airport” and forevermore protects its operations”.
“This decision provides PAC and all of the businesses on the airport the full protection of planning law and the National Airport Safety Framework policy as well as providing certainty for council and the community,” he said.
He said it was now time for all to move forward, accept the decision, “get back to flying, and share our airport with our community”.
Despite long-running simmering tensions between the airport – which has been in operation since the 1960s – and Mornington Peninsula Shire, the council has “welcomed” the VCAT findings. The mayor Cr Anthony Marsh said it was good to “finally have a definitive position from VCAT as the independent umpire”.
“VCAT’s decision provides council, the Peninsula Aero Club and everyone in the community certainty into the future,” he said. “We look forward to working with the Peninsula Aero Club and seeing our local aviation sector thrive as they move forward with confidence about their operations.”
Some anti-airport residents are not so pleased with the VCAT decision, and say they will consider an appeal, despite the hearing being between the council and the airport.
Spokesperson for Sensible Aircraft Noise (in and around Tyabb), Brewis Atkinson, who has led a campaign since 2018 to restrict aircraft operations, said the decision opened residents up to the possibility of aircraft noise at unlimited levels “24 hours a day from increased aircraft”, including helicopter activity in all directions, including east and west of the airfield.
Atkinson said one win for airport opponents was that permit conditions could not be breached if the pilot deemed it “operationally necessary”, as PAC had sought.
He said other “wins” were that night starts at sunset and finishes at sunrise, reducing the legal operating time of aircraft over 2041 kilograms (4500 pounds) by about 50 minutes a night, and were limited to 10 movements a day and not 20 as sought by PAC.
It is still unclear what the latest hearing will cost the council, but as part of the dispute over the airfield permits the shire had to pay out $32,000 in 2021 to PAC for costs incurred over a dispute over permit conditions (“Shire’s $32,000 payout to aero club” The News 23/2/21).