AS GOLD Coast Airport prepares to install an instrument landing system (ILS) it says is essential to its operations, the Tugun Cobaki Alliance (TCA) steps up its protest against the airport intrusion onto an environmentally sensitive NSW Crown Reserve.
The TCA is ready to lodge an application to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for a review of the ILS approval.
Alliance president Jackie McDonald says the ILS will cause permanent irreversible damage to the ecology of a state-protected wetland.
She says the reserve is a public asset, set aside for environmental protection and public recreation.
"We hope that common sense prevails and a future decision to use more modern and less invasive technology is reached," she said.
The footprint of the ILS development, to start by mid-year, is on the coastal lowlands of the Lower Tweed River Estuary - Cobaki Broadwater - on both Commonwealth land and the NSW Crown Reserve.
In an objection to the ILS last year, 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."
The alliance argues that the ILS is obsolete and unnecessarily intrusive, unneighbourly and destructive of unique high-value environment and heritage.
"The Cobaki wetlands is identified as an area with one of the highest levels of flora and fauna species biodiversity in Australia, with more than 800 native species," it points out.
The airport's development plan explains the need for an ILS:
"ILS is a precision, radio navigation, ground-based aid adopted by airports and airlines worldwide to allow aircraft to approach and land in weather conditions that would otherwise have resulted in a missed approach and possible diversion to another airport.
" Gold Coast Airport is the fifth busiest international airport in Australia. However, it is the only airport within the busiest 12 airports in Australia that is not equipped with an ILS.
"The installation of an ILS will result in improved reliability of landings (for equipped aircraft) at Gold Coast Airport during periods of inclement weather."
TCA says that the ILS, which came into use in 1938, is clearly out-dated by other more advanced systems, one of which (SmartTrack) is already installed at Gold Coast Airport.
"It is our understanding that Australian and New Zealand aircraft are now fitted with the SmartTrack safety landing system and do not require the ILS," TCA states.
"Further, it has been reported that out of over 35,000 aircraft landings, only some 14 aircraft had to be diverted to Brisbane because of bad weather."
Ms McDonald said the Aboriginal cultural heritage values within the airport precinct and its surrounds, known to locals as Murraba, could not be over-stated.
"It is a landscape of national heritage significance, which is still utilised for cultural purpose and expression to the present day," she said.
"The whole of the Cobaki Broadwater is under extreme development pressure. Bit by bit we are gradually destroying a place that is important to the whole nation.
"The cumulative impacts of each of these developments have reached a point where all developments ought to cease until we have a proper understanding of the significance, educational value and extent of the resource our ancestors (the original inhabitants) have left us."
Gold Coast Airport chief operating officer Marion Charlton said the formal development approval process for the ILS was now complete.
"We are focused on moving into the next phase of the project - with construction scheduled for completion in 2017, ahead of the 2018 Commonwealth Games," she said.
"The final Major Development Plan (MDP) for the ILS sets out the potential environmental impacts associated with the works including required vegetation clearing.
"Airservices and Gold Coast Airport will take every opportunity to mitigate the impacts as detailed in the MDP."