Mon, Dec 24, 2012 - Page 15 News List

Sydney Harbour heliport plan on hold

AFP, SYDNEY

A plan for wealthy executives and tourists landing in Sydney to flit directly to the city’s famous harbor via a floating heliport has been put on hold after fierce public opposition.

The company that was set up to run the operation, providing quick transfers to and from Sydney Airport and scenic flights over the harbor, said it wanted to further consider the operation’s “feasibility.”

“It is Newcastle Helicopter’s intention to address the relevant concerns and queries with thoroughly considered and accurate information, and is taking the appropriate steps to do so,” the company said in a statement on late Saturday.

It followed rising public anger over the New South Wales state government giving the go-head last month to unlimited flights from a barge anchored in the harbor, which is popular for yachting and close to residential areas.

According to reports, the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) issued the license without consulting the community, doing an environmental impact assessment, testing for noise or putting the project out to tender.

The Sydney Morning Herald also claimed approval was given two weeks before authorities asked about air safety or air traffic control regulations.

New South Wales Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner last week insisted all usual procedures had been followed.

“As required by RMS, the proponent wrote to relevant councils in October outlining the proposal and inviting feedback but received no responses,” he said in a statement.

Federal MP Malcolm Turnbull led the campaign against the heliport and said the decision had descended into farce.

“If you put this into an episode of Yes, Minister, nobody would believe it,” he told reporters, referring to the satirical British comedy show.

Industry leaders have long called for a heliport based in the city, which last had one in the late 1980s operating from the Darling Harbour tourist precinct.

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