Future of aviation at Moorabbin Airport hangs in the balance
Published on 24 August 2023
The future of Moorabbin Airport is on a knife edge with aviation businesses kept in the dark and fearing for their survival.
Aviation businesses celebrated when a proposed 5-year Masterplan for the site was refused by former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce in 2022 due to growing concerns that aviation businesses were being pushed out in favour of factory developments.
These developments have progressively eroded aviation, despite it being the core purpose for the Commonwealth-owned land.
The Moorabbin Airport Corporation was sent back to the drawing board but has argued current legislation does not require it to share any details on the updated plans for the site with aviation businesses, residents, or Kingston Council.
Kingston Mayor Hadi Saab said it was utterly ridiculous that a Masterplan for a significant airport was not shown to neighbouring residents or tenants on-site particularly when it directly impacts their business survival or allows large warehouses against residents’ boundaries.
Moorabbin Airport, located in Melbourne’s south-east just 25km from the CBD, is Australia’s second busiest airport averaging 295,000 movements per year and is responsible for the training of about 25% of Australia’s pilots.
“The Federal Government is due to rule on the Masterplan at any time, yet neighbouring residents have no idea how their homes may be impacted and aviation businesses on the site have been left in the dark about their future,” Cr Saab said.
“This is clearly unfair. One of the reasons the first draft was refused was due to a lack of consultation. How can anyone say there has been consultation when key stakeholders have not been shown any new designs since the first draft was refused.”
Council sought legal advice from one of Australia’s top Kings Counsels who has questioned the approach the Airport has taken and disagrees that further consultation is not required after the first draft.
Moorabbin Airport Chamber of Commerce President Rob Simpson said the first draft of the Masterplan had large areas of the airport land currently used for aviation set aside for large industrial/ commercial uses.
“Australia needs a strong aviation industry, but aviation businesses are being pushed out in favour of warehouses,” Mr Simpson said.
“There is a global pilot shortage and now is the perfect opportunity to boost strong pilot training services, but businesses have no certainty they will have any room at the airport.”
Kingston Council, aviation businesses and nearby residents have flagged concerns about growing factory development at the site for a number of years which would result in:
- Reducing space for aviation at the site and increasing safety risks.
- Long-standing aviation businesses that are reliant on being located on the airport may be forced to close.
- Neighbouring homes facing huge factories being over the fence, with no planning protections embedded in the Masterplan which require a Major Development Plan trigger to be used to ensure a robust and prescribed consultation on any such proposals.
- Loss of highly respected pilot training services which provide qualified, safe pilots for the industry.
“We are simply calling for development at Moorabbin Airport to be properly managed in a way that protects aviation at the site, respects neighbouring homes and does not increase safety risks at the site. Buildings should be located away from homes and should leave plenty of open space for emergency landings,” Cr Saab said.
Cr Saab said Kingston Council and aviation businesses had taken their concerns directly to the Federal Infrastructure Minister Catherine King, who oversees the department that will provide advice on the Masterplan.
“We have been pleased to meet with Minister King twice to raise concerns and we hope that a Masterplan is not approved until proper consultation occurs and that the plan is safe, sets aside more space for existing and future aviation activities and includes buffer zones between warehouses and neighbouring homes.”
Proper strategic planning requires that the site’s primary purpose as an airport is prioritised.
“There is a strong history of refusing inappropriate airport development with Anthony Albanese previously refusing masterplans for both Bankstown (2011) and Canberra (2008) airports and blocking plans for inappropriate commercial development here at Moorabbin Airport (2013). An airport and the industries on it are not something you can easily replace,” Cr Saab said.