Airport continues fight against Tralee

VILLAGE Building Company managing director Bob Winnel says development at Tralee will not be delayed despite new concerns raised by the Canberra Airport that the suburb doesn't comply with federal environment conservation regulations.

Freedom of Information correspondence revealed by the Canberra Times this week detailed a meeting of Department of Environment and Village Building company staff in November 2010. The two groups discussed whether the 2000-home development would need federal ministerial approval to protect vulnerable woodlands and reptile species in the area.

The developer later withdrew from the federal referral process in July 2011, a move that Canberra Airport managing director Stephen Byron said raised "serious questions" about the planning process.

"Our position remains that we know that building houses directly under flight paths is just a mindlessly stupid decision, and for there now to be the contemplation that the [federal] Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation act (EPBC) would be side-stepped around to avoid commonwealth scrutiny of the aircraft noise issue is a great concern," Mr Byron said.

However, Mr Winnel said the concerns were an attempt by the Airport to stall development at Tralee.

"It's just another mischievous, self-serving interference in due process, by Canberra Airport. They're looking at every single thing as they have done for 10 years," he said.

"We've got formal advice from an environmental consultant that it does not need referral. In addition, the Council and State Government appointed their [own] consultants. They have not found any need for referral.

"There's nothing of national significance in South Tralee, and the [conservation] land they're referring to is other land that we're not looking at. They've referred to other land being Robin-Environa; we're not looking at Robin-Environa," Mr Winnel said.

A spokesperson from the federal Department of Environment confirmed the department had discussed conservation matters with Village.

"Projects likely to have a significant impact on a matter protected under national environment law ... must be submitted to the federal environment department to see whether federal assessment and approval is needed. Substantial penalties apply to a person who takes such an action without an approval," the spokesperson said.

"The department has provided the proponent with guidance as to whether the proposed project is likely to have a significant impact on a matter protected under national environment law."

Meanwhile, Stephen Byron told the Queanbeyan Age that he felt a responsibility to future generations of Canberrans to prevent Tralee going ahead.

"This goes beyond the ownership of the airport. This is an issue about how an airport serves a community, and how a community is impacted on by its airport.

"What I'm concerned about is that you'll end up with noise sharing, and you'll get 90,000 to 100,000 people offside with the airport, regardless of its ownership.

"We've got a responsibility to future generations to make sure that this sort of appalling decision does not go through," he said.

Despite the opposition, Mr Winnel said he expected construction crews to start work on site this time next year, as previously predicted.

"We don't envisage any delays, because this is all covered by acts [of parliament] and we're in compliance with the acts. Propaganda can't replace the proper operation of an act," he said.

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