Palm Beach resident John Hicks and Dr Mariann Lloyd-Smith, of the National Toxics Network.
Palm Beach resident John Hicks and Dr Mariann Lloyd-Smith, of the National Toxics Network. Picasa

Gold Coast Airport’s ILS plan grinds to a halt

A CONCERTED legal effort by opponents of the Gold Coast Airport plan to build an ILS (Instrument Landing System) has delayed start of construction.

Airport management is adamant that the ILS should be in operation before the influx of visitors for the Commonwealth Games in 2018.

The Tugun Cobaki Alliance (TCA), Gold Coast Lifestyle Association and Palm Beach resident John Hicks have put in requests to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for "stay orders" on the airport’s ILS development.

A hearing to deal with the requests will be heard on June 23 in Brisbane, delaying the ILS start-of-construction date which was set down for mid-June.

TCA spokeswoman Lindy Smith said the alliance’s legal action was based on environmental factors – disturbance of soil and water, and destruction of wetlands, salt marsh and fishing habitat.

"As a community, we’re up against huge teams of barristers and all that," she said.

"Evidence to date is that there was no consideration or assessment of PFC (perfluorinated compounds) chemical contamination (before ILS approval in January)."

Airservices Australia, a government-run entity that oversees airport operations, advises that from the early 1980s until the early 2000s, a firefighting foam called 3M Lightwater was used at all Australian airports, including the Gold Coast Airport.

This product is now known to contain PFCs. Since 2010, Airservices has used a PFC-free foam called Solberg RF6.

An Airservices spokeswoman said preliminary assessments had confirmed the presence of PFC residues within soil, sediment and groundwater at the fire-fighting training ground at Gold Coast Airport.

"Airservices has established a groundwater monitoring program at Gold Coast Airport and continues to use these results in ongoing work at the airport," she said.

Ms Smith will also lobby for an independent investigation into PFC contamination at the Coolangatta airport.

"It is highly appropriate that the airport and Airservices head up the investigation," she said.

Gold Coast Airport chief operating office Marion Charlton said any testing relating to the PFC contamination, to date and in the future, was to be conducted by independent, third party consultants.

PFCs were used in the past in consumer products like Teflon and Scotchguard, and are known to be persistent in the environment.

Gold Coast Airport management says an ILS is necessary to provide the airport with the same technology that is already installed in Australia’s other leading airports.

The system is touted to boost reliability, reduce disruptions to passengers’ journeys, and help to make the Gold Coast a more appealing and reliable tourism and business destination. 

In its objection to the ILS in July last year, the TCA stated: "The installation of the proposed ILS will result in unnecessary, unacceptable negative impact on coastal landscapes, water resources, landscapes and soils, people and on communities."

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