11 September 2019

Community steps out to reject Frogs Hollow Flight School

| Ian Campbell
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Around 400 people gathered against the Frog Hollow Flight School in Bega on Wednesday. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Around 400 people gathered against the Frog Hollow Flight School in Bega on Wednesday. Photo: Ian Campbell.

The Bega Valley has delivered a resounding “bugger off” to those who want to develop a $10 million flight school at the grassy Frogs Hollow Airstrip between Merimbula and Bega.

Close to 400 people packed into the Bega Civic Centre to address the State Government’s Joint Regional Planning Panel who will determine the fate of the development.

Because of the scale and nature of the proposal, Bega Valley Shire Council sits at arm’s length, however, Mayor Kristy McBain followed by a number of other councilors were the first to speak against the Development Application at Wednesday’s hearing, echoing previous statements from Council.

The three-member panel heard from 45 people over a five hour period, the applicants Sports Aviation Australia were in attendance but did not address the meeting, in fact, no one spoke in favour of the idea.

Pam Allan, Chair of the Southern Region Joint Planning Panel. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Pam Allan, Chair of the Southern Region Joint Planning Panel. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Mayor Kristy McBain was critical that the development’s Environmental Impact Statement only dealt with the airfield and not the broader landscape it would operate in;

“This is overdevelopment and will substantially change the rural feel of the area.”

“This is a big difference to how the airfield is used now.”

“This represents an additional fire danger given the number of flights over wooded terrain.”

The Mayor and a number of others also raised national security concerns around the “Chinese only” operation, Cr McBain pointing to Eden’s role with the Australian Navy – 76 Naval movements a year and the armaments depot on the southern shores of Twofold Bay.

Moira Scollay, Deputy Chair of Four Winds, suggested the proposal threatened their 27-year history of outdoor performances at Bermagui;

“Let’s be very clear, the noise levels associated with the flight school would put in doubt the continued existence of Four Winds itself.”

“Aircraft noise and airborne pollution would ruin the tourist experience and adversely affect tourism numbers, something on which all coastal communities depend.”

Barry Irvin, Executive Chair, Bega Cheese, believes the business model doesn’t stack up, he also fears the impact on milk supply;

“As a business person I can’t accept a number of points in the DA, I know what it takes to build a business and employ people.”

“To see some of my best dairy farmers, the future of this company impacted by this breaks my heart.”

Barry Murray, an acoustic consultant from Wilkinson Murray, engaged by the Bega Valley Residents Against Frogs Hollow Flying School says industry standard methodology wasn’t used in the developers noise testing;

“Background noise levels should have been measured over seven days not 1.5 hours.”

“Not all the residences in the area were identified or assessed.”

“I feel strongly that this development should be treated like a factory development in that there should be no noise impact.”

Fraser Buchanan, President, Bega Valley Residents and Ratepayers Association;

“The BVSRRA believes that attempts by the proponent to characterise the proposed flying school as a “tourism venture” are at best disingenuous & at worst, simply misleading, when its operation will not only clearly damage & disrupt the lives of thousands of the shire’s residents, but will also damage the natural attraction of a significant part of the shire that is a current driver of tourism activity in the region.”

Peter Barbara, Bega Valley Combined Chambers of Commerce;

“We can not support a new business in the shire that will have a detrimental impact on the other business of the shire.”

“This project fails the public interest test.”

Paul McMurray, President, SCPA-South East Producers, concerned about the impact pollution will have on soil and water;

“We believe the development will threaten existing organic producers and inhibit new producers.”

Steve Jackson addresses the meeting. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Steve Jackson addresses the meeting. Photo: Ian Campbell.

While the support of the region’s leaders and community organisations added real weight to the argument it was the simple plea of residents that left its mark.With trembling hands, shaky voices, and obvious nerves and emotion people from as far away as Mallacoota stared down any fear of public speaking to be heard.

Those who spoke yesterday have either lived in the Valley for generations and have contributed to its place in the world or have been drawn to these rolling green hills and sapphire waters from the city, looking for peace, community, and sustainability

Ancret Shipton, Kanoona dairy farmer;

“We can’t escape the noise, cattle will be stressed and harder to handle.”

“Developers have shown disregard for our concerns.”

“It is unacceptable for one enterprise to impact so many livelihoods.”

Resident Sandy Rocca, speaking of the Social Impact Statement submitted by Sports Aviation Australia;

“Nine people were surveyed, that is 0.006% of the three shires that will be affected.”

“The developer has made no effort to engage with the community.”

“If we don’t care about what happens in our backyard who will?”

Bill Kershaw, Whyndham;

“Every 12 weeks there’ll be 360 trainee pilots, that’s 28,000 takeoffs and landings.”

Steve Jackson, Buckajo;

“Aviation in all forms contributes to carbon emissions, this application makes no mention of that.”

Resident Ian Gorton speaking about noise;

“Right now I have two butcher birds and a couple of magpies.”

“The development is not the airstrip it is the planes flying overhead.”

Craig Richmond, Black Range;

“The developer couldn’t find one organic farm, we found thirteen.”

Kerry Grant, Frogs Hollow, speaking to the accommodation and hospitality infrastructure proposed for the site;

“This is a development equivalent to a town of around 500 people.”

“We’ve been told to expect a conservative drop in our property value of 20%”

Bill Middleton, Frogs Hollow;

“The personal turmoil of this development on my wife and I has resulted in sleepless nights and despair.”

Resident, Paul Bennett;

“Its plain rude and selfish to have our reality changed forever to satisfy the commercial interests of a few.”

Resident, Scott Toohey, father of five, 18 years in the Army;

“This is a place to heal. We have found our peace and quiet in the Bega Valley.”

“I know I am not the only veteran to turn to the Bega Valley.”

Jane O’Shea, Mallacoota, raising language concerns about the Chinese only operation;

“How can they respond to radio chatter that they may not understand.”

Keith Summerill, Candelo – Wolumla Road, points to local weather conditions;

“During the three months of winter, it is rare to have 50 metres of clear vision before 11 am.”

Don Kellond, Toothdale;

“Frogs Hollow Airstrip is subject to an inversion layer.”

Judy Geary, Bega;

“This Shire has invested in the Wilderness Coast brand, the Bega brand also points to a clean, green image. This development will compromise that.”

“Peace is the new luxury.

Megan Jordon-Jones, Buckajo;

“36,000 hours of flying will expose the community to risk.”

“We give up city amenities to gain a peaceful rural life.”

“The proposed workforce of 200 jobs is overinflated.”

Sussan, Mallacoota;

“Noise pollution is a catalyst for depression and anxiety.”

Colin Reed, Buckajo Road;

“Our dreams have been shattered by this development.”

“Who would want to stay in our B&B?”

“If this development goes ahead we couldn’t stay.”

Barb Rogers, Kingswood, raising concerns about stress to livestock;

“This will lead to reduced growth rates and lower prices at the sale yard.”

“Why should we lose money while the developer makes money?”

Jenny Gardener, Candelo;

“Please listen to the democratic process and reject this application.”

Scott Toohey makes his case. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Scott Toohey makes his case. Photo: Ian Campbell.

The timetable from here for the Southern Joint Regional Planning Panel is unclear, however, Chair Pam Allan says a determination meeting will be held in Bega where people will be offered one last chance to speak.

On top of the five hours of testimony yesterday, all levels of political representation in the Bega Valley have spoken out against the proposal, and 721 written submissions have been received – surly this flight school can’t be approved.

Residents will continue to worry until the outcome is known, for the time being, they can sleep a bit easier knowing they have participated strongly in the decision making process.



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I represent a group called Citizens Against Gillespie Expansion and Low Flying Aircraft (C.A.G.E.L.F.A.). Gillespie is an airport located in El Cajon, California, just east of San Diego. The people who fought this flight school from becoming reality with their hard earned money and time are to be congratulated for their success. After 10 years of very limited change in the inundation of flight schools with “out of country” student pilots is nothing short of government assisted criminal behavior. We tried to nominate you and your mayor for “Citizenship award for 2019” in Australia, but the nominations were closed. You will not be forgotten for your efforts and I suspect you may hear your group’s name on a larger stage some day.

Don Woodward6:06 pm 05 Mar 19

Why not tell the flying school to look at other airports inland, and much quicker to get to from the Melbourne and Sydney. Holbrook Airfield is one good one, close to the Hume Hwy and close to Wagga and Albury.

I can’t understand why a community would want such a venture that will create unhealthy physiological life long term problems to existing residents.
We live in a corrupt take no responsibility or action government organization era that presents itself but has no power, because they have sold it off to private contractors. This means a developer can use another private government contractor to override a so called outcome. Then the process starts again and again.
The Bega valley is unique in its topography and its acoustic natural amphitheater and to have a ex-stream noise generating business and not have a proper CSIRO scientific acoustic study and its affects on all existing human,fawner and flora welfare is out right corrupt.
The latest fires and the aircraft that were active should have been a testament to what the outcome will be. Was there anyone commissioned to conduct an acoustic test during this fire event of the noise pollution we could face? Shame if there was not. I thought I was back on operations again, many gohst’s did resurface, but it was worth the experience as life was at risk. I praise the people who did us proud during this event.
Anyway to put it simply. we need local government that draws a line in the sand for the better for the welfare of the greater community, not bow to the outsider government bodies that have no mediate tender to our shire.
These might be some harsh opinions, but I think the health of all in this Bega Valley should never be compromised for a short term gain.
That’s my two bobs worth.
Kind Regards

Anne Bennett12:08 pm 01 Oct 18

As a regular visitor to Narooma over the past 30 years, I am appalled that the development of a “flight school” could be approved in the Bega Valley to the detriment of residents and the environment. Here in Sydney, we are witness to the destruction of our suburbs which continues apace for the benefit of developers. Now it seems that even our regional towns and farms are not immune from this cancer. Where will “rural escapes” be found in the future?

Steve Jackson9:10 am 03 Sep 18

Comprehensive coverage of the meeting thank you Ian. Great to see such a broad representation of the community turning out to voice their opinion, their speaks to the community wide opposition to such a ridiculous proposal.

Gega valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association6:46 pm 30 Aug 18

Thanks Ian … a great summary of a great effort by a great community. Well done.

Hi Ian. We have just been in West Kempsey visiting family. We were gobsmacked by the activity of flights overhead, never been observed before. On questioning, it is the Chinese pilot training school which, although opposed by local community, is up and running. We were driven insane by the constant overhead low flying aircraft. Dennis’s parents said it just invaded their lives, and now they are fighting to have it rejected. They said that the crew flew from 8am til 7pm with flights every 5 minutes. We really need to make sure this doesn’t come to our valley, as once they are here, it is obviously nearly impossible to get rid of. X Therese and Dennis

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