Floating heliport battle looming
- Peter Hackney
- Thursday, 10 January 2013
The floating heliport plan for Sydney Harbour is shaping up as one of the most contentious issues of the New Year, with concerns about noise and safety butting up against tourism and economic benefits.
The heliport was originally announced in November, when NSW Deputy Premier and Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Stoner said the State Government would work with Newcastle Helicopters to build and operate the heliport.
“Helicopters currently only operate from Sydney Airport, Bankstown Airport and a private heliport at Rosehill,” said Mr Stoner.
“Much like BridgeClimb, the Sydney Harbour Floating Heliport is a new signature experience that will help entice visitors to Sydney and make it easy for them to enjoy a bird’s eye view of the harbour.”
The Sydney Business Chamber (SBC) welcomed the heliport, saying it would put Sydney in line with other major cities.
“It’s a commonsense outcome that puts Sydney in a similar position to other renowned global cities,” said SBC chief Patricia Forsythe, who noted that Melbourne, Singapore, London and New York all had downtown helipads.
But the proposal met with widespread community criticism late last year, including a sledging from state Member for Sydney Alex Greenwich, who said the heliport “questions the respect [the State Government has] for Sydney Harbour”.
Newcastle Helicopters then announced at Christmas-time that they would review the proposal.
“It is Newcastle Helicopters’ intention to address the relevant concerns and queries with thoroughly considered and accurate information, and [we are] taking the appropriate steps to do so,” said a company spokesperson.
However, State Government approval for the project remains current, stoking fears about the heliport’s potential pitfalls.
Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the City of Sydney Council had been excluded from the consultation process and expressed hope operators would take community concerns into account if the project went ahead.
“The City of Sydney was not consulted regarding the creation of a heliport in Sydney Harbour,” said the Lord Mayor.
“Development needs to balance the needs of local residents, businesses and visitors, and I urge the operators to work with the community.”
City of Sydney Councillor Angela Vithoulkas greeted the heliport plan with conditional optimism.
“We do have a unique harbour and one of the most stunning cities in the world,” she said.
“This could provide a great point of difference for Sydney and an unforgettable way for tourists to reach the city from the airport. What a trip!”
However, Ms Vithoulkas said community concerns and safety aspects should override the economic and tourism benefits, calling for a trial period to assess the heliport’s suitability.
“A trial would be the way to go – then people can say: ‘Yes, it is noisy’ or whatever, and we can see first-hand the effects it may or may not have.”
Newcastle Helicopters did not respond to questions regarding their current review process.
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