The Merimbula Airport terminal upgrades are almost complete, with some finishing touches and car park work still in progress. Bega Valley Shire Council is keen to turn the communities thoughts to the next part of the airport upgrade – the proposed runway extension.
The environmental impact statement is now available for public comment.
Aviation experts Lambert and Rehbein, with a team including pilots, engineers and runway specialists, have led the planned development for the runway extension and Council is inviting and encouraging the community to provide their feedback on the proposal until January 20.
The project proposes the construction of a 120 meter long runway ‘starter extension’ at each end of the existing runway pavement (northern and southern ends of the existing runway).
Council’s Director Assets and Operations, Anthony McMahon, says the aim of the project is to allow a greater range of aircraft and airlines to provide both passenger and freight services to the region.
“The successful completion of the extension, which is consistent with the current approved master plan for the site, would make the airport less dependent on the current provider [Rex – Regional Express] and better able to adapt to the ongoing growth of passenger numbers,” he says.
“It is important to note that the proposed additions are to be used for the commencement of take-offs only. As a result, aircraft will complete their take-off and land in the current locations and consequently the flight paths and protected airspaces around the airport will not need to change,” Mr McMahon adds.
Bega Valley based environmental consultancy firm NGH Environmental have prepared the environmental assessment for the runway extension.
“This comprehensive assessment identifies potential impacts and their mitigations, including a noise management plan, and is the culmination of detailed, expert investigations and community consultation,” Mr McMahon explains.
The environmental assessment includes potential impacts on the lake, flora, fauna and the surrounding community.
It also considers the impacts of climate change, taking into account that over time inundation of the runway would become more frequent as sea level rises.
During community information sessions held in August this year, NGH reports in the assessment that the three main community concerns were noise from larger aircraft and flight path changes, the design generally and impacts to oyster leases at the southern end of the proposed extension.
The project is broken into two stages – during stage one, 1.41 hectares of mangrove forest would be impacted and in stage two, 0.07 hectares of Bangalay Sand Forest, 2.02 hectares of mown and degraded saltmarsh and a further 0.05 hectares of mangrove forest would be impacted.
The Bangalay Sand Forest belongs to a NSW Threatened Ecological Community and the proposal would affect this potential habitat for the threatened Beach Stone-curlew, Sooty Oystercatcher and Pied Oystercatcher.
The Eden Local Aboriginal Land Council were involved in the cultural assessment of the proposed site. The cultural assessment recorded four locations of Aboriginal artefacts and possible fragmented shell midden material, although only one would be directly impacted by the proposed runway extension.
Salvage of Aboriginal artifacts will be considered as part of the plan.
Despite these impacts, NGH have assessed the runway extension to be a reasonable development.
The Merimbula Airport Runway Extension project is being jointly funded by the NSW Government and Bega Valley Shire Council.
Given the scale of the project, the application is classed as a regionally significant development, with the Southern Joint Regional Planning Panel being the consent authority.
To view the application and EIS and to provide feedback visit Council’s ‘Have Your Say’ webpage. Hardcopies of the EIS are also be available for viewing at the Tura-Murrang Library and Bega Valley Shire Council offices in Bega.
The exhibition period will close on January 20, 2020.