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Mixed responses to helipad removal

28 Feb 2018

Mixed responses to helipad removal Image

By Shane Scanlan

Flinders Wharf residents are delighted, but the industry is feeling vulnerable following the removal of the North Wharf helipad on January 31.

The residents had been strongly opposed to any lease renewal between Parks Victoria and the operator Microflite.

Local resident John Johnson told Docklands News: “Relocating the North Wharf Helipad is a relief to us residents and local businesses within the immediate area.”

“This self-monitored helipad was only six metres from the footpath, 30 metres from a busy pedestrian bridge and closer than 60 metres from a residential high-rise building and shops.”

“Transferring the subject licence agreement to various companies over a short period of time allowed helicopter movements to escalate from an occasional movement per week to that equivalent to an airport operating over 100 movements on some days.”

“Thankfully our safety and quiet enjoyment has now been restored.”

But industry spokesperson Clem Newtown Brown decried the removal as a backward step for the state’s economic activity.

He said more than 10,000 tourists used the facility each year and regional tourism was the primary beneficiary

“Visitors were ferried to places such as Yarra Valley wineries, the 12 Apostles, and Phillip Island and the service supported major events such as the Spring Racing carnival, Grand Prix and Portsea Polo,” he said.

“Melbourne is the only city in Australia where you can land a helicopter in the CBD. It is a significant advantage we have over other cities. After over 50 years of helicopters operating in the city we are at risk of losing our helipads, squeezed out by development.”

“The time has come for government to make a decision as to whether we want to keep helicopters in the city and if so, then locate a permanent site so the industry can invest in tourism products with certainty, to the benefit of the whole community.”

“Batman Park and the Turning Basin are the two logical places we could establish a permanent Melbourne Heliport. For over 50 years helicopters have operated incident and accident free from these locations,” he said.

In an earlier LinkedIn post, Mr Newtown Brown said: “Melbourne lost a commercial helipad in the CBD, squeezed out by a compliant government agreeing to the request of a hotel developer to revoke a licence that has operated for decades.”

As part of the deal between Shed 5 developer Riverlee (see our story on page 7), it is obliged to restore the wharf, but couldn’t do so until the helipad was removed.

Its wharf contractor Freyssinet Australia has now started the wharf’s restoration.

But Parks Victoria is refusing to say whether the removal is temporary or permanent.

Parks Victoria executive director, Chris Hardman said: “In September last year, Parks Victoria issued a relocation notice to Microflite Pty Ltd advising of the need to relocate the North Wharf Helipad site in January 2018.”

“The relocation notice was requested by the Department of Treasury and Finance to enable a major redevelopment of the North Wharf Precinct to commence in February 2018.”

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