House debates

Wednesday, 23 June 2010


Paterson electorate: Williamtown

7:49 pm

Photo of Bob BaldwinBob Baldwin (Paterson, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Defence Science and Personnel) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on behalf of residents living around Williamtown RAAF Base and Salt Ash Air Weapons Range. Under the new Australian Noise Exposure Forecast Maps 2025, many people who have never experienced noise issues from our RAAF base are now being classified as highly noise affected. This is a result of the introduction of the Joint Strike Fighter.

As shadow minister for defence science and personnel, I have a passion for our Defence Force and the role its members play in protecting our country. I believe it is extremely important that they are provided with the best possible resources. However, I want to make it abundantly clear that I understand the situation many of those in the Paterson electorate now face, and it is unfair. Defence has changed the goal posts and inexact modelling contained within the noise maps means the goal posts could change yet again.

Residents are justified in speaking about the possible impacts of these maps on their homes. Impacts include the cost of noise attenuation if their house were to be damaged, inability to rebuild if their house were destroyed, possible property value loss and changes to quality of life, through no fault of their own. That is why I welcome any chance to represent those who are concerned about this problem and would say to anyone affected, ‘I am here; I am listening. Your concerns are important.’

I am thrilled that Oyster Cove has now been excluded from the 2025 forecast. The people at Oyster Cove could have faced huge decreases in property values and quality of life and an inability to construct their dwellings. I met with these residents the first time they came together as a collective and I spoke on their behalf at the Williamtown Consultative Forum. I also represented each and every person who approached me on this matter. I am pleased that they now have some security in the future of their properties. This is what all residents in the Paterson electorate deserve.

Unfortunately, those in areas such as Medowie, Raymond Terrace, Nelsons Plains, Brandy Hill, Riverview Ridge and Lakeside do not have such security. That is why Port Stephens Council, the state government and Defence need to work together closely on a long-term plan for our area. I believe Defence has a responsibility to give local people security as soon as possible—security in knowing that their homes are going to be safe, comfortable and able to be lived in. I see this as an opportunity for the defence minister to improve his relationship with the local community. He has a real chance to get out and talk to people, to find a fair compromise. Through consultation, Defence can negotiate a solid agreement for the long term.

There are a number of long-term planning options which should be discussed and explored, and I would happily work with the defence minister on viable options. I would also urge the minister to consider the purchase of rural and severely noise affected properties. If you want to travel along a highway, first you need to acquire the land. That is what our coalition government did in Slades Road, Moxey Close and Steel Street at Williamtown airport.

Port Stephens Council also has a role to play in mitigating noise impacts. Unfortunately, some councillors have been extremely irresponsible, and I urge them to look towards the long term, not the short term. In particular, I would like to mention the Kings Hill development. I have raised concerns about this development with the council, the state government and Defence for some time now. While I am mindful of the need for affordable housing in the Paterson electorate, this must occur sensibly. Large parts of the proposed Kings Hill development, north of Raymond Terrace, are directly under the flight path. My fear is that in 10 years from now, if all of this development goes ahead, the owners of those residential blocks will be faced with the same problem some Port Stephens residents are facing now.

I find it very difficult to believe the two-faced actions of some Port Stephens councillors who are currently campaigning for compensation from the federal government for noise-affected residents. They are the same councillors who have voted to push ahead with the development of Kings Hill. They have voted to put more homes and more families under the flight path. No doubt in the future they would also want the federal government to pay compensation for these affected residents, even though the federal government had no control whatsoever over the approval of Kings Hill.

I should point out that the Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Support, Dr Mike Kelly, met with Port Stephens councillors earlier this month and ruled out any form of compensation or acquisition. I certainly hope councillors take these noise impacts on board when making rezoning approval decisions and do not cast their votes to score political points.

The Williamtown RAAF base is important for our local community, the Defence Force and our country. It will be here for a long time and councils need to be proactive in preparing for it. I have said it many times but I will say it again: I would like to work with the council, Defence and the state government to find a commonsense, win-win solution that my constituents are happy with. This issue should be fought not along party lines but for the good of everyone involved. I will continue to fight hard on this matter for the people I am elected to represent to ensure a mutually beneficial outcome for all people. It is not those in RAAF uniforms at Williamtown and Raymond Terrace but those bureaucrats in Defence who need to realign their attitudes. (Time expired)