‘Unreasonable’ risk

Melbourne Airport. (Damjan Janevski)

Tara Murray

A Brimbank council report says the Melbourne Airport master plan and preliminary draft major development plan represent an “unreasonable and unacceptable risk” to the health of the Brimbank community.

Councillors will vote on the council’s submission to the two master plans at the May 17 council meeting, with the officers recommending they don’t support the master plans.

The plans, which will shape the future of the airport, include the construction of the third run away

The new runway will be constructed with a north-south orientation and will change the existing predominant flight paths that run around-the-clock.

In the submission included in the council meeting agenda, the council said while the growth and development of the airport potentially delivers economic benefits to Brimbank, there are also a range of impacts that would result in significant disadvantages as well.

These include implications for community health and wellbeing, education, traffic congestion and pollution, the environment and the future development potential of Brimbank.

As part of the council’s submission, Tonkin and Taylor undertook a health and risk assessment and air quality [HRA] assessment.

Dr Lyn Denison, who led the HRA, found that guidelines in the World Health Organisation Environmental Noise Guidelines (2018) (WHO Noise Guidance) are exceeded across several parts of Brimbank under the new plans, indicating that there is an increased risk of adverse health effects within the exposed population.

The submission said the health impacts identified in the HRA represent an “unreasonable and unacceptable” risk to the Brimbank community,

“The noise impacts extend over a significant area of Brimbank,” the submission said.

“Individual events will often be much louder, with community currently reporting events in excess of 100 decibels.”

Dr Denison said the metrics in the masterplan are based on amenity impacts and not health impacts.

The submission said that Dr Denison found the plans lacked sufficient information and detail to fully comprehend and determine the implications and economic costs relative to the health, wellbeing and environment of the Brimbank community.

The council is calling for the state and federal governments to require Melbourne Airport to prepare a well founded and value health impact assessment in relation to off-site noise.

This includes the airport addressing noise abatement procedures particularly at night-time and reviewing the potential for noise sharing, by reconsidering the four runway configuration in partnership with key stakeholders.

It also said a curfew was an option, while compensation should be looked for those adversely impacted.

Speaking on ABC radio last week, mayor Jasmine Nguyen said she would not support the plans until effective measure were put in place.

“I think it’s our responsibility as a council to look into what we can do for the community, so we’ve actually worked with experts to conduct an independent health impact assessment. And unfortunately, so far, the proposed plans don’t have any mitigation or compensation.

“And I think that really presents an unreasonable and unacceptable health risk for our community.

“Why should planes be prioritised over the health of human beings?”

Cr Virginia Tachos, speaking as a resident who will be affected by the third runway, said this report backs what the community has been saying.

“We now have an independent health impact assessment coming to light showing a potential risk to the health and well being of our community,” she said.

“It concerns me that no amount of growth or expansion and profits comes at the cost of our community’s health and wellbeing . We have a duty of care to our people first and I believe strongly that there are options that can be explored to accommodate growth in aviation by limiting the impact over densely populated and growing communities which can be explored through an independent review process .”