The Mission Beach community is calling for Mission Helicopters director Ray Cronin to fulfill his obligations by referring his Helicopter aerodrome development to the federal government for assessment.
Decades of community work could be undermined
The Mission Beach community says an important part of the development assessment process has been ignored.
“We have every reason to question the process particularly as the former federal environment minister Peter Garrett saw fit to deny a development on Lot 66 in the same locality because of the impact it would have on the endangered cassowary” said Ms Gallie.”If this development is allowed to go ahead it will undermine Mr Garrett’s decision and the integrity of the whole Wongaling Creek cassowary habitat corridors system.
In 2015 when the then federal Threatened Species Commissioner Gregory Andrews visited Mission Beach for World Cassowary Day he was so impressed by the community's commitment to protect the cassowary, it was included in the 20 birds threatened species list.
The community has sent an urgent appeal for the new federal environment minister the Hon Tanya Plibersek to use her power to call in the development for assessment under the EPBC Act.
“We are asking for proper process to be observed; for the impacts on the sensitive environment and important wildlife to be assessed.
"The process is there for a reason. What is Mr Cronin afraid of?” said Ms Gallie "Or is Mr Cronin exempt from the law”?
Mission Beach Cassowaries
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In an interview with rural reporter Charlie McKillop on ABC Far North radio this morning, Mr Cronin said "The funny part about this application is it is solely about erection of buildings on the site, nothing to do with helicopters".
Why then, was the development application a Material Change of Use to include air services? Why did the council condition the number of helicopters on the site, the hours of operation and the flight path if the application had nothing to do with helicopters? The community certainly doesn't think there is anything funny about this application.
Mr Cronin also said the community had their chance to have a say during the comment period. The community spoke with a strong voice when a high number of submissions were lodged against the DA. Community concerns were not only ignored but the councillors were ordered by the then CEO not to talk to their own constituents, the very people who voted them to be their representatives. One councillor claimed he could not discuss the application claiming conflict of interest. A culture of separation emerged between council representatives and the public with flippant behaviour bordering on contempt by some councillors.
We are being told by Mr Cronin that it's too late to object to his proposal since the gate's closed and the horse has bolted. He emphasises he has legal approval. There is a difference between legal and proper. Governments on all levels have failed the Mission Beach community forcing them into a costly court battle, perhaps ill equipped to take on legally enforceable negotiations with a wealthy developer who has made it clear he is not interested in doing anything to address their concerns unless he is forced to.
In defending his position, Mr Cronin added, "Quite frankly if I hadn’t done it someone else would have. There is already helicopter activity right in town, we are taking a responsible approach by placing it between the towns". Based on Mr Cronin's argument we might as well all start importing fentanyl because if we don't, someone else will.
Referring to the compromise reached between C4 and himself during the court appeal mediation, Mr Cronin claimed "We are taking a far more responsible approach to noise mitigation than other people are." In the absence of regulations covering helicopter activity in Queensland, C4 and Mr Cronin agreed to use the noise levels in Victorian regulation as a benchmark in the trials carried out at Mission Beach.
Aircraft noise is gauged against ambient noise of an area. We have not been able to establish exactly what the regulations are for Victoria or where in Victoria the comparison is being made but it would be safe to say the environment would be vastly different than the high biodiversity of the Mission Beach environs.
C4 has entered into a legally binding agreement determining 'acceptable' noise levels with an expert who would be fully aware of how much noise a helicopter makes. The agreement was made without any consultation with residents during the negotiations.
Charlie McKillop concluded the process must have been tortuous for Mr Cronin. Does that mean Mr Cronin is a victim instead of a wealthy businessman who has got his own way, against the public interest? It may be tortuous for Mr Cronin but it continues to be torturous for the community and their unknown future.
Mr Cronin is the sole beneficiary of a proposal that has already caused social division and continues to cause ongoing anxiety and stress within our community. An industrial aerodrome at 2224 Tully Mission Beach Road will have an irreversible impact on our community’s sense of place and wellbeing.
Mission Beach community continues to voice their concerns
Reliant on legal structures to ignore legitimate needs of the local community
During his presentation, Mr Cronin claimed his business will help the community but his actions show his interests lie in what is allowed by law, not the legitimate needs of the local community.
Mr Cronin made it clear the court had approved his development adding there was now no further legal avenue of appeal .
"It might be legal but that doesn't mean it is moral, ethical or acceptable to the residents of Mission Beach who have an expectation they can live in peace and quiet and not be disturbed by noisy intrusive helicopter activity". said Ms Gallie. "Legal processes are easily available to a wealthy developer to intimidate the local community into putting up with the unacceptable"
"Wooing the public with a promise of local benefits through tourism transfers from Cairns and Townsville to Dunk Island and Bedarra and a feel good focus on emergency services belies the true impact Mission Helicopters aerodrome will have on our small community".
Mission Helicopers is not a boutique business servicing our nature sensitive tourist town. said Ms Gallie. " In Mr Cronins 'DNA' as he puts it, is the ability to establish Kestrel Aviation, one of Australia's largest fleets of specialist multi-role helicopters in Australia.
This trojan horse will be bringing all the helicopter activities in the following list, with work for;
Given this extensive list of helicopter activites made legal through the court order, it is difficult to understand what was meant in C4's media release following their withdrawal from the appeal when President Peter Rowles said: “We were not able to stop the helicopter base altogether but we were able to secure some more favourable conditions governing its operation".
No law or regulation exists to limit aviation activity
The Air Services Noise and complaints information service know how disturbing helicopter activity is but concede that no law or regulations exists to limit any type of aviation activity. This fact was established during the appeal negotiations between C4 and Mission Helicopters and highlighted in Mr Cronins presentation.
The negotiations relied on the willingness of each party to reach an agreement. The community expectation was any agreement would only be acceptable if it addressed their well voiced concerns. Failing a suitable mediation outcome, it was believed the appeal would continue to a court hearing.
The outcome was not what the community was looking for. The appeal against the Council’s approval was withdrawn in favour of a negotiated agreement. The approval and conditions were based on an agreed noise level and other compromises during the mediation.
How much noise do Robinson 444 and Bell Long Ranger helicopters make? "Most certainly Mr Cronin knows" said Ms Gallie. "Who was responsible for establishing the noise level the trials were assessed against"? "Who decided the noise level generated from either of the two medium size helicopters used in the trials and now allowed to operate from 2224 Tully Mission Beach Road was acceptable"? "Why was Mr Cronin allowed to pilot the helicopters during the trials"?
"Who was responsible for the decision that 120 helicopter take offs and landings anytime of any day in the heart of Mission Beach was acceptable"?
These questions go unanswered as the community was not involved or consulted during the negotiations nor did the conditions agreed to and ordered by the court address the community concerns. The matter was not taken to court.
One of the court ordered conditions is the flight path. Flight paths cannot be enforced as they are determined by the pilot and dependant on weather conditions at the time. Likewise, it is left to the heliport operator to consider any impacts on sensitive areas such as national park and residential areas. Mr Cronin has not acknowledged or made any attempt to address these community concerns.
Local Council Assessment process fails community
Aircraft noise and/or environment impacts are usually managed within the development application with impact statements. The local council failed to consider the impacts of the development on the residents, and important wildlife and environment at Mission Beach.
CASA encourages fly friendly agreements to be considered by council and with the helipad operator and local residents during the assessment process. There has been no mention of a fly friendly agreement either during the initial development approval or during the appeal.
An industrial business with Mission Helicopters legal capability located in the heart of Mission Beach villages at 2224 Tully Mission Beach Road will undermine community sense of place and the foundations of a tourism economy built on the points of difference at Mission Beach.
The local planning scheme, the development assessment process, and any moral obligation Mr Cronin may have, has completely failed the Mission Beach community and the expectation their peaceful lifestyle, environment and important wildlife is protected.
Buy Back for 2224 Tully Mission Beach Road
Mr Cronin is aware of the social division and ongoing anxiety and stress his proposal has caused to members of the community.
The petition asking Mr Cronin to please fly elsewhere now has 314 signatures. The petition comments explain the community concerns.
If Mr Cronin has a commitment to the community as he claims, why did he avoid questions at the MBCA meeting and why has he not responded to our open letter?
2224 Tully Mission Beach Rd is a strategic rehabilitation area most suited to a property buy back to establish a robust cassowary corridor and allowing opportunity for the rural land to be developed appropriately, for example, a high value niche cropping/ farm tourism venture.
Mission Beach Cassowaries
No Helicopters Here campaign
10 Aug 2022
Residents call for developer to rethink location of proposed helicopter aerodrome
An Open letter, to be published in the local Cassowary Coast newspaper, calls on Director of Mission Helicopters Ray Cronin to locate his planned obtrusive helicopter aerodrome business where it cannot disrupt residential areas and wildlife.
“The present Council-approved site lies between two villages and immediately adjacent to a wilderness reserve” Ms Gallie said “residents and visitors alike are attracted to the very special low-key village atmosphere and nature amenity of Mission Beach – into which this helicopter aerodrome approval has brought nothing but social division, anxiety and stress”.
“The community has no objection to a helicopter aerodrome being located near Mission Beach, but it must be situated where its operations cannot disrupt residential areas and cassowary habitat” said Ms Gallie “this proposed three-storey industrial hanger complex will introduce a visually jarring and peace-shattering interruption right on the scenic route into town
THE COURT CASE THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN
With the support of the Mission Beach community, which made many submissions against the Mission Helicopters aerodrome proposal, community group C4 (Community for Coastal and Cassowary Conservation) started a legal appeal against the Council’s approval; but then withdrew from the case in favour of a negotiated agreement allowing Mission Helicopters to conduct 120 helicopter movements daily, from early morning to late afternoon, 7 days a week.
President of local conservation group Mission Beach Cassowaries, Ms Gallie said “this is not the outcome the community wanted. Noise trials conducted during C4’s negotiations with Mission Helicopters highlighted just how disruptive and intrusive this helicopter aerodrome would be if it goes ahead”.
UNHAPPY LOCAL RESIDENTS SPEAK UP
“Local residents are speaking up” Ms Gallie said. “They fear loss of their community’s sense of identity, which depends on the low-key village atmosphere. Decades of consistent feedback from the community have highlighted the special amenity, character and natural environment of Mission Beach”.
New arrivals Robyn and Tony Pembroke moved to Mission Beach from ‘overdeveloped’ Byron Bay, believing they were buying into a peaceful neighbourhood. They had not been advised of the helicopter plans. “It’s unfair to expect residents to accept the noise of a helicopter operation right in the middle of town” said Robyn. “Helicopter noise is extremely loud, unpleasant and intrusive and needs to be well away from houses, especially at a place like Mission Beach”.
Another new resident, who did not wish to be named, had bought a house lot next to the rainforest. “I was devastated” she said. “we bought next to the reserve thinking it would be a quiet nature block – we had no idea we’d be next to a helicopter aerodrome! We saved up for this block- it was to be our first home. Now we don’t know what to do. It’s right under the flight path”.
From: Mission Beach ‘No Helicopters Here’ campaign supporters
To: Mission Helicopters
Dear Mr Cronin,
We refer to your business Mission Helicopters Air Services currently proposed and approved for 2224 Tully Mission Beach Road. We ask you to change its location to one where it cannot disrupt and disturb Mission Beach residents and wildlife.
Helicopter noise is extremely loud, unpleasant and intrusive. The recent increase in helicopters flying over Mission Beach and along the shoreline has shown just how disruptive and upsetting the noise can be to residents and shorebirds.
Local residents who value the natural context of Mission Beach and its village amenity know that a helicopter service in the heart of our villages can only have an unacceptable impact on the overall amenity of Mission Beach.
Your proposed helicopter aerodrome has already caused social division and continues to cause ongoing anxiety and stress within our community.
The No Helicopters Here campaign supporters respectfully appeal to you, Mr Cronin:
We ask you to locate your business to a place where it cannot disturb and disrupt Mission Beach residents, our peaceful residential lifestyle, and our sensitive and important wildlife.
Mission Beach ‘No Helicopters Here’ campaign supporters
Instead of the developer being stopped from building a helicopter aerodrome in the wrong place, the developer has been granted the movement of 120 helicopters every day. Instead of town planning principles and legislation protecting residents and their surroundings, there will be never-ending impacts on the local cassowaries and community.
The court approval of the new agreed conditions replaces the original approval. Should these conditions be breached, there is no way of enforcing them without going to court.
We have yet to learn what was negotiated for C4 during the mediation.
Before anyone decided to go to court, Mission Beach Cassowaries obtained preliminary legal advice that outlined just how inadequate is the local planning scheme to protect the village characteristics and natural environment so highly valued by the present community. Development by Material Change of Use (MCU) – ie by overriding what we used to call “zoning” – is now the path to anti-community development under a complicit local council.
Mission Beach Cassowaries set up the Go Fund Me fundraiser to help the appeal with an expectation it would proceed to a court hearing. We thank you for your generous support. The No Helicopters Here supporters did not receive any correspondence from C4 during the proceedings. Nor were they consulted about the possibility of negotiations with the developer; nor about what, if any, conditions would be acceptable during such negotiations. Supporters of NO HELICOPTERS HERE meant just that – NO HELICOPTERS HERE.
As the appeal did not proceed to a hearing we have received some requests for donations to be refunded. The refunds have incurred a GoFundMe fee of 2.2%.
Please let us know if you would like to:
If you would like to to receive updates and ways you can help please let us know by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mission Beach Cassowaries
The conditions include rehabilitation of cassowary habitat to the north and to the south of the development.
It's all downwash under the blades now, and there might be lots of it if the developer exercises his full rights. The new conditions will allow up to 120 helicopter movements a day from the site at the centre of Mission Beach.
Residents who showed strong support against the devlopment and were willing to help with the appeal and expenses are asking why they were not consulted at any time during the appeal particularly on what, if any, conditions might be considered acceptable to take to mediation with the developer.
The outcome of the appeal has community members grappling with the knowledge their quiet peaceful township, the reason many have chosen to settle at Mission Beach, will now have the unpredictable intrusion of noisy helicopters any time from early morning to late afterrnoon seven days a week.
Affected residents say they were given little or no opportunity to have input into the appeal. They were discouraged from public show of support against the development. There was no mention of community expectation in the judgment handed down from Judge Morzone, a factor that has strong sway in community court appeals.
By sidelining the supporters of the appeal, C4, has unilaterally negotiated an outcome that will have a significant impact on the future amenity and environment at Mission Beach.
With the appeal no longer proceeding to a hearing, those who contributed to the No helicopters Here Go Fund Me appeal have been contacted by Mission Beach Cassowaries (MBC) for instructions regarding their donations. See GoFundMe fundraiser update .
Mission Beach Cassowaries
We trust the appeal legal team have a strong enough case (as in the grounds for the appeal) to argue, the development does not comply with the planning scheme and no conditions can reduce the unacceptable impacts of helicopters operating from 2224 Tully Mission Beach Road, i.e. on the;
We trust the position will be to maintain the development should be refused.
Approval for ANY helicopter activities at this location would be the 'foot in the door' to future variations and expansion.
We must wait until Monday 14th February 2022 for the outcomes of the appeal parties' 'negotiations'.
Helicopter noise trials were carried out at the proposed helicopter development site in Mission Beach during the middle of the day on Wed 28th October as per the Court order issued on September 3rd.
Kestrel Aviation boss Ray Cronin who owns Mission Helicopters, piloted the two aircraft used in the trials; a Bell 206 Long Ranger and the smaller Robinson which is currently used for passenger transfers to and from Bedarra Island.
Bell 206 Long Ranger Robinson - Bedarra passenger transfer helicopter
Representatives from both sides of the court appeal against the helicopter development approval were present to observe the trials including the CCRC Planner Byron Jones who wrote the Planning Department reports during the development assessment process.
C4 president Peter Rowles and committee member Ian Shankley were at the front of 2224 Tully Mission Beach Road with the independent acoustic expert while vice president and committee members Helen and Jeff Larson observed from the mouth of Wongaling (Porters) Creek under the flight path.
Acoustic recording devises were placed strategically at either end of the fenced development area as well as at houses within the impact zone.
It was made clear the noise trials were only concerned with impact on residents so it was disappointing the community was not informed of the trial date and time. Noise levels from any model helicopter on a designated flight path are known or can be calculated, so it could have added weight to a fair assessment to give opportunity for feedback from residents within the noise impact zone. The trials were not concerned with any noise impacts on the bike path or the beach or the environment.
We were told the appeal process has made the whole council approval null and void. "That a lot has changed since then. Such as the aircraft now being proposed for the development is the Bell Long Ranger and the Robinson". With little or no information being shared with the community we must trust that any 'negotiations' or 'agreements' during the appeal proceedings are from a firm position of 'No Helicopters Here'.
Takeoff of Bell Long Ranger flight number 4
We were alerted to the trials by a Conch Street resident during the third of four Bell 206 Long Ranger flights from the development site. The video above is of the last flight takeoff. Residents in Conch Street, Oasis and residential subdivision south of Marcs Park reported intrusive noise during the trials. A recording taken by a resident at Shelly Court registered 65.9 db at 11.56am and 87.3db at 11.58 during the Bell 206 flight. As another Mission Beach resident observed..." that is loud band level".
The graphic shows the locations of the above feedback to the north of the flight path and assumes the helicopters were using the path provided to the CCRC as mentioned in approval Condition no 7.
A facebook user commented "Helicopters are loud. Full stop. Everybody knows this, especially when taking off and landing, there should be no landing pads or flight paths any where near residency or nature sanctuary".
Community members have questioned why the trials were carried out during the hottest time of the day. While sound moves faster in warm air than colder air, the wave bends away from the warm air and back toward the ground. That's why sound is able to travel farther in cooler weather. Was this taken into account by both parties within the ''agreed approach' for the trials? Mr Cronin would be well aware of the nuances of helicopter sound.
The public might be under the false understanding the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has some control over noise levels or impacts on people or the environment. CASA has no remit in land development application approvals and/or the process of aircraft permissions in using the facilities. CASA's responsibility under civil aviation legislation is to oversee aviation safety.
CASA does not regulate aircraft noise and/or environment impacts. It is usually a matter managed within the land development application with impact statements. The council could, or better, should have made this a requirement of the Development Application (DA) but dodged it by claiming they only have no responsibility once a helicopter is in the air. While CASA cannot enforce fly friendly agreements they encourage consideration by council authorities and with the helipad operator and local residents. No such agreement was considered as part of the helicopter development assessment process.
Further, CASA does not have any jurisdiction over where helicopters can fly . The pilot must determine the safest route in landing and take-off, depending on conditions at the time. The helipad/heliport operator generally specifies operating procedures for aircraft using the landing site, and this will include flight paths relevant to safe routes and can be in consideration of impacts of aircraft with sensitive areas, such as national park and residential areas. This means a specific flight path is not enforceable which leaves in question how the full potential noise impact can be accurately gauged.
Increased helicopter activity at Mission Beach
Meanwhile, since Mission Helicopters has been promoting scenic tours operating from Tully aerodrome, residents from South Mission Beach to Brooks Beach are reporting an increase in helicopter activity around the region. Island Reef Helicopters has been observed flying noisily along the beach close to the water disturbing Red-tailed black cockatoos.
Residents at Brooks Beach report helicopter movements regularly, using no particular flight path; sometimes over land, sometimes directly overhead and other times following the coastline over the sea. The helicopter used in the noise trial video (above) was identified flying "quite low' directly over houses along Brooks Beach on the day of the trial.
It seems there isn't a day without helicopter activity at Mission Beach. Under any circumstances helicopters are intrusive and destroy the normally quiet peaceful ambience Mission Beach is known for.
Helicopter flying over Bingil Bay
During the court appeal process, there is no room for compromise from the position of NO HELIPORT at 2224 Tully Mission Beach Road An agreement to allow any helicopter business to operate from the site is simply the first 'foot in the door' to future applications for variations and increased use.
The appeal will be reviewed on 3 December 2021.
As per the September 3 court order, Mission Helicopters will be carrying out a set of helicopter movements to and from 2224 Tully Mission Beach Road this week as part of a noise level trial. The date and times of the trial depend on the availability of the monitoring company and are unknown at the time of this publication.
C4 advised that noise levels will be recorded of the aircraft described in Mission Helicopter's Development Application (DA) i e the large medium lift helicopters Sikorsky S-76, Bell 412, and Bell 206L3 (below) .
The process for the trial has been determined by helicopter and noise experts as agreed by both parties and will be monitored by two independent noise-recording experts.
The data from the recordings will then be analysed for use by the expert witnesses in the upcoming Planning and Environment Court case.
Recordings will be taken during take off, landing and to and from the proposed development site following the approved flight path; although there has always been some confusion over which is the correct flight path given condition 7 of the CCRC approval document differs significantly from the Approach/Departure Waypoint Flight Plan provided by Mission Helicopters.
The CCRC Planners report presented at the CCRC General meeting 21 Jan 2021 (Page 256) stated 3 helicopters could be in use at any one time. None of the approval conditions limit the number of helicopters. Fully representative trials would need to take this into account.
Community people (sic) have been asked to cooperate with the trial process so the best information can be gathered for the legal proceedings. In the public interest, C4 has requested people to monitor noise levels from their homes so they can determine what the likely effects of proposed helicopter movements might have on them.
Given the impact would also be felt by those enjoying the beach or using the bike path, these are other places the community could gain an insight into the selected activities of the trial. The map, above right, shows the supposed impact zone of both flight path scenarios.
It is stressed that noises other than those of the helicopters can negate the results of the tests so those interested in being present while the trials are being carried out are asked to please observe quietly.
The community could rightfully ask why the burden of proof is on the objectors to demonstrate noise nuisance?
Why wasn't Mission Helicopters required to lodge a report with the DA to show that the noise he intended making was below acceptable limits?
We will keep you informed as soon as we have any further information on the trial date.
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This website is managed by Mission Beach Cassowaries inc to share information about the No Helicopters Here campaign against the approval of A HELICOPTER BASE on 2224 Tully Mission Beach Road.
Court appeal chronology
28th February 2022.
C4 entered into a compromise settlement with Mission Helicopters. The appeal did not proceed to a court hearing.
3rd December 2021
The appeal was reviewed. Judge Morzone ordered (above) the appellant (C4) to provide a list of matters they wish to be considered for inclusion in the proposed conditions attached to any approval of the development application.
3rd September 2021
Order (above) made by his Honour Judge Morzone QC.
Appeal review listed for 3 December 2021
6th August 2021
Court ordered MH to respond to C4 correspondence by August 15th. Appeal review listed for 3rd September.
3rd June 2021
Grounds on which Mission Helicopters, as co respondent , defended the appeal .
5th Mar 2021
C4 filed to appeal the Heliport approval decision