Australian Parliament approves reforms to airport planning

FEDERAL Parliament this week approved reforms to airport planning that aim to "empower local communities and improve transparency around the long term development plans at the nation's major airports".

Announcing the reforms, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Anthony Albanese, said the changes "complement our major cities agenda by providing national leadership when it comes to planning the future of our major airports."

The reforms are part of the Australian Government's 2009 Aviation White Paper. The Airports Amendment Bill 2010 "recognises that airports exist primarily for aviation purposes, there to serve the national economy and the flying public."

The key changes introduced:

  • Strengthen the requirements for airport Master Plans and Major Development Plans to undertake community consultation;
  • Better align airport development and planning with State, Territory and local planning;
  • Require Master Plans to outline ground transport linkages and information on proposed non-aeronautical development, including the impact on jobs;
  • Increase the triggers requiring airports to lodge Major Development Plans to include developments that are likely to have a significant community impact;
  • Require public consultation on runway alterations that significantly change flight paths or aircraft noise arrangements through a Major Development Plan process;
  • Prohibit certain types of non-aviation developments, such as residential, aged or community care facilities, hospitals and schools unless there are exceptional circumstances; and
  • Integrate airports' environmental plan into their Master Plan to give comprehensive information to the public through a unified consultation period.

On 30 September 2010, the Senate referred the Airports Amendment Bill 2010 to the Senate Standing Committee on Rural Affairs and Transport for inquiry and report. The Senate passed the Bill last week with amendments. The House of Representatives on Monday supported the amended version.

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