Sailing clubs question council approval of seaplane operation set for take off on Lake Macquarie waters

UP AND AWAY: A seaplane operator has been approved to run scenic flights from two areas of Lake Macquarie. A sailing club has raised concerns.
UP AND AWAY: A seaplane operator has been approved to run scenic flights from two areas of Lake Macquarie. A sailing club has raised concerns.

A LAKE Macquarie sailing club president says he struggles to see how a seaplane approved to conduct flights off the lake will safely operate among existing activities.

Teralba Amateur Sailing Club president Peter Watson has questioned Lake Macquarie council's approval of Joyflight Australia's plans to operate a seaplane out of Marmong Point Marina.

Flights are set to take off and land between Teralba and Warners Bay. A second area can also be used between Murrays Beach and Point Wolstoncroft.

Joyflight Australia's development application was approved in May, but Mr Watson said at least two clubs who use the lake were not notified of the proposal.

"We were not consulted," he said. "We've got boats out there; we have these things that stick up in the air called masts. Through six to seven months of the year ... we're racing, people go out training."

Mr Watson believes the seaplane could be a valuable tourism addition, but he struggles to see how it will work on the busy waters.

"It's an awkward one, you would certainly enjoy people coming to the lake but I think it's something that needs to be managed very carefully," he said.

"It's a very well used northern end of the lake. I really don't see how that could work. You get people out there kite-surfing, you get water-skiers, how do you manage and control all that?

"Do the traditional users of the lake have to vacate for the plane coming and going?"

Speers Point Amateur Sailing Club president Bruce Gunn said his club had 20 to 40 vessels in the northern take-off zone every Saturday. Like Teralba, the club was not notified of the DA exhibition.

While both clubs made submissions after hearing of the proposal, neither has heard from the council or operator.

"What consideration has been given to existing users, and existing registered users of the lake? It would appear little or no consideration has been given," Mr Watson said.

Teralba Amateur Sailing Club. Picture: Supplied

Teralba Amateur Sailing Club. Picture: Supplied

A Lake Macquarie council spokeswoman said 1811 properties were notified of the DA, exhibited from December 7 to January 24. She said as per guidelines, only landowners were notified.

"Crown Lands were notified for the land occupied by Speers Point and Teralba sailing clubs," she said.

Joyflight Australia's approved conditions include a maximum 12 charters (24 flight movements) per day, limited to four days per week between 8am-6pm in summer and 8am-5pm in winter.

However, additional flights can be taken outside the four days for activities carried out in other local government areas, aircraft maintenance and inspections, or personal use by the aircraft operator.

The four-seat aircraft must maintain a 300-metre shoreline exclusion zone up to a height of 500 ft.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority said the proposal had "no issue from an aviation safety perspective" while Roads and Maritime Services, Fisheries NSW and Lake Macquarie Airport also reported no issue.

Joyflight Australia director Adam Faulkner said a date for the commencement of flights was yet to be set as a plan of management was still being prepared.

He said Joyflight Australia was "intending to build on consultation carried out to date with community representatives by consulting with key lake user groups well in advance of the business commencing operations".

"This will ensure the safety and amenity of lake users is maintained," he said.

"Joyflight Australia were attracted to the natural beauty of Lake Macquarie and it surrounding coastline, with the opportunity to offer both residents and tourists a unique view of the region's amazing attractions as a point of difference from that offered when viewed from the water.

"The company is looking forward to progressing with this exciting venture."

Aircraft notification signage must be installed at Marmong Point and Cockle Creek boat ramps, and the marina, before flights begin.

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