AN Act of NSW Parliament restricting expansion of Warnervale airport will remain in place, Planning Minister Anthony Roberts said on Friday in a shot across the bow to Central Coast Council over its regional airport plans.
The NSW Government will consider whether additional controls on future development might be needed after sustained criticism of the council over the lack of consultation and lack of transparency about its airport plans.
The additional controls will “ensure any further proposals are subject to community consultation, rigorous environmental assessment and are determined by an appropriately impartial body”, Mr Roberts said.
In a statement Mr Roberts confirmed the Warnervale Airport Restrictions Act will remain unchanged after a review backed concerns by Central Coast community groups, Lake Macquarie Council and Newcastle Airport over council plans for a Central Coast regional airport.
“Expanding the operations to create an aviation hub or regional airport is a big deal to local communities and not a decision that could ever be taken lightly,” Mr Roberts said.
“Based on the recommendations by the Department, I have decided to leave the Act in place, meaning that any significant expansion of the airport will still need ministerial consent. I believe this remains the most appropriate way to currently regulate activities at the airport.”
The media release on Friday ends months of community anger about the council’s pursuit of a regional airport and commitment of $12 million for road and flood mitigation works to support expanded operations at the Warnervale site, despite expectations the review would find the Act should remain in place.
The review was sought by the former Wyong Shire Council, which was strongly criticised for spending millions of dollars on an aborted regional airport plan for land at Bushells Ridge, before turning its attention to Warnervale.
The Act restricts the size of the runway and the number and size of planes that can used the airport.
Wyong MP David Harris said he and Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper were briefed on the government review in late 2016 and told the review was almost finalised and recommended the Act be retained.
Mr Harris was concerned at the millions of dollars that have been spent on site and the release by Central Coast Council of an expressions of interest document in March describing Warnervale Airport as a “general aviation industry hub”.
He was also concerned the document failed to include that the NSW Government was reviewing an Act that would severely restrict activity at the site. It instead carried a disclaimer saying “The information and intentions set out in the EOI may change at any time without notice”.
Mr Piper also expressed concern at the amount of work at the site while the review was underway, saying “I would have thought it more appropriate to restrict funding to maintenance”.
Central Coast New Independents candidate Laurie Eyes, who repeatedly obtained information about the former Wyong Council’s controversial major project plans using freedom of information legislation, said the objective of the Warnervale Airport Restrictions Act was to restrict future development and operations at Warnervale to protect communities in surrounding areas.
“The Act should be retained on that basis alone,” Mr Eyes said.
In a media release on Friday Mr Roberts said the review process had ensured that “everybody had a chance to have their say”, including the council, community and other stakeholders.
“The department ensured that all matters raised were adequately addressed before finalising the review.”