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Helicopter proposal sends residents into a spin

Geoff Helisma

A proposal to trial helicopter joy rides at the western end of Ford Park, Yamba, to coincide with the Yamba River Market on the fourth Sunday of each month, has generated fervent commentary on social media.

“We realise we’re opening a hornets’ nest by writing this (or is it a can of worms),” Irene Bass posted on the Yamba Notice Board Facebook page.

“Just wondering how many of us have received the letter from Clarence Valley Council [CVCV] today [May 10] regarding the proposal for scenic helicopter flights…

“It seems some of us who live close to the park have been notified, but just wondering.”

The Independent spoke with CVC’s Environment, Planning & Community director Des Schroder, who said 84 houses were notified about the proposal.

The Independent emailed him a series of questions, to which he responded in a return email.

GH: What was the process followed as far as advising residents about this specific DA (and what is the general practice … I assume they’re the same)?

DS: There are no requirements in Council’s adopted Community Participation Plan to advertise event applications as this one is. Note: this is for rides once a month corresponding to the markets.

However, staff did notify neighbours – they were notified of the proposed joy flights … because of potential impacts. Copies of the documents submitted with the application have been provided on request to anyone [who asks].

GH: Assuming this was done by letter to residents, what are the parameters for establishing who should be advised?

DS: It is usually the immediately impacted residents within approximately 500m of the area for the licence.

GH: …that would mean if none of those who were notified shared information with the wider community, the wider community would not know, therefore, the DA would be approved without going to a council meeting – is that correct?

DS: This would depend on whether the resident had concerns about the application, which automatically means it goes to council. Word of mouth and use of social media is very effective for persons to raise their concerns/objections, as has been the case for this application. Council staff will usually give interested persons an opportunity to make a late submission if they find out about it belatedly.

GH: Given that a proposal such as this would usually draw a high level of public interest, why wouldn’t CVC be proactive and at least put it on its website on the ‘Advertised DAs’ page?

DS: The proposal was not required to be notified as per the adopted Community Participation Plan. This possibly needs to be looked at in the future.

Submissions to CVC close at 4pm this Friday May 21.