Local aviators and residents alike are concerned by the Rockhampton Regional Council's decision to review their trusteeship of the Emu Park airstrip.
Council has recently sought legal advice through the Local Government Association of Queensland’s legal opinion service with respect to Council’s responsibility for the Emu Park Airfield Reserve. Specifically, the Council sought advice to either resign the trusteeship of the airstrip to the Department of Natural Resources and Mines or allocate additional resources to maintain it.
Council has a duty of care to take reasonable measures to ensure that the airfield is maintained in a condition, and operated in a manner, that ensures the safety of persons and property upon or about the land, and of others likely to be affected by inadequate airfield operations.
The airfield is a Reserve for which Council is the Trustee. The airfield is not licensed under the Civil Aviation Regulations. Council’s Parks & Open Spaces Section mows the airfield and notifies Civil Operations if any works are required. At the moment the airstrip reportedly costs council $5000 a year for maintenance while local aviators maintain the area around the hangar.
There has been talk that Council has long intended to close the Emu Park Airfield for housing developments. This grass airfield is less than 1km from the beaches and shops at Emu Park and was built by the Americans in 1943. Emu Park Airfield is the only public airfield outside of the Rockhampton Airport. No other public airfields are in this Regional Council area.
The Emu Park airfield is the envy of many coastal towns, and is a great asset to the community that should be promoted. The airstrip has proved integral to the entire region, particularly during the floods and when Rockhampton Airport was closed due to fog. It is also a crucial pick-up point for medi-evac helicopters, and is also a popular location for the Rockhampton Aero Club who hold regular fly-ins at the airstrip.
Before any decision is made however, Council wants to hear the community’s views on the current and the future uses of the Emu Park Airfield Reserve.
Rockhampton Region Acting Mayor Tony Williams said that Council, as a trustee of this land, needs to establish how (they) will use it and maintain it going forward. For this to occur, Council needs a good understanding of how the airfield is used now and what the community’s expectations are for the future.
“At the moment we are consulting with the community and I’d encourage anyone who has an opinion on this issue to let us know your views” he said.
Cr Williams said face to face interviews with users of the airfield and other affected community members, as well as mail based surveys of local residents had already kicked off the community consultation. Additional copies of the survey will be available for anyone else who wishes to fill it out on Council's website.
Anyone wanting a paper copy of this survey should call 1300 22 55 77 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and one can be mailed to you.”
Council will also be looking at the findings of a safety auditor who will look at the current operations of the airfield. Cr Williams said that “It is important that anyone who is affected by the operations of this airfield takes this opportunity to let us know your views so that we can get an accurate depiction of the community’s expectations.”