Docklands’ “ridiculous” heli noise

Photo by Andrew Dodd
Inner-city homeowners are furious no work has been done to reduce the noise from helicopters in the area. Isaac Kirby reports.

Docklands homeowners claim none of the action taken by Parks Victoria will reduce the “ridiculous” amount of noise from helicopter activity in the area.

Resident Todd Henderson said the helicopters contravene Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) regulations and provide a health and safety risk to families in the area.

“Their solution has been to simply wipe their hands of it,” said Mr Henderson, who has been involved in a bitter dispute with Parks Victoria and the State Government since noticing an increase in the frequency of helicopters using the Melbourne City helipad.

Mr Henderson first aired concerns about the helicopters in the area when the license of the helipad was transferred to commercial helicopter operator Microflite.

“Under the current Act, there are no requirements to consult residents when the license of the helipad is transferred,” Mr Henderson said.

“Previously the helipad was used on an ad hoc basis with only a few flights per month, but since the current operators have purchased the license it has been treated like a commercial airport.”

Mr Henderson estimates there are now around 10 each day.

“The summer period is certainly worse, there have been times I’ve recorded over 80 flights on a single day,” said Mr Henderson, using the Grand Prix as an example.

Mr Henderson believed the only solution was to relocate the helipad away from its current site.

Executive Director of Parks Victoria Chris Hardiman said he understood Mr Henderson’s concerns and was working alongside state government.

Mr Hardiman said while CASA’s Fly Neighbourly Agreements had reduced the number of residents’ complaints, there were always issues when inner-city developments became residential.

Hardiman likened the situation to housing developments near Tullamarine airport.

“As the helipad has been in operation for 20 years, significantly longer than most dwellings, it’s a matter of developing a strategic approach that will mitigate the impact for all parties,” Mr Hardiman said.

But Mr Henderson said that as there are no obligations to abide by the Fly Neighbourly Agreements, they have not changed a thing.

“Parks Victoria claimed it would improve the situation as CASA had the ability to step in, but realistically it’s just something to make it look like they have made an effort,” Mr Henderson said.

He added while Microflite will advise homeowners of flights outside of usual operating hours, the unregulated frequency of flights was his biggest criticism.

“They may abide by rules retrospectively, but that was when the site was largely industrial,” said Mr Henderson, who believed they certainly would not fall within current regulations.

CASA’s current regulations require helicopters to fly above 1000 feet – but do not impose restrictions on flight frequency, paths or hovering heights.

“It has basically become a commercial airport,” said Mr Henderson, labeling the current Act as an “insult to homeowners.”

Current conditions state helipad operators have to abide with EPA noise control guidelines, however Mr Henderson said that when Parks Victoria are asked if operators are complicit, they “tend to avoid any responsibility.”

“There has to be a stronger effort from Parks Victoria and State Government to impose stricter regulations – particularly on frequency,” said Mr Henderson.

Minister for Suburban Development Lily D’Ambrosio was unavailable for comment.