Gingin looks set to reject Beermullah airstrip proposal again

One of the recommendations made by the Defence Aviation Safety Authority’s defence flight safety bureau after a RAAF pilot from Pearce used Beermullah airstrip for an emergency landing in 2017 was for the airstrip to have continuing maintenance. Picture: Department of Defence

THE Shire of Gingin is set to again reject a proposal by a flying club to use Beermullah airstrip if councillors follow an officer’s recommendation today.

In the past 12 months the council has received three requests to use the Beermullah airstrip, with the most recent request coming from Greenside Recreational Flyers Club (GRFC).

The officer’s report said GRFC was the parent company for Topfun Aviation and they operated out of the same location in Muchea.

But GRFC vice chairman Michael Byrne said the flying club was a completely independent organisation from Topfun Aviation.

Mr Byrne said GRFC had several committee members of which none were the owners of Topfun Aviation.

He said a parent company was a company that owned enough voting stock in another firm to control management and operation by influencing or electing its board of directors.

GRFC secretary Michael Donsen is a senior instructor with the flying school, which is owned by chief flying instructor Jack Donsen.

Mr Byrne said Michael Donsen does not have any financial control in the family business but if the club was making decisions in relation to Topfun Aviation he declared a conflict of interest and left the room while the decision was being made by the remaining committee as required by regulation.

Topfun Aviation had a development application deferred on June 16 before it was rejected by the council at its July 21 meeting.

The officer’s recommendation for today’s meeting is for the council to refuse the request by the incorporated club or any other person or entity to enter into an agreement for the use of the airstrip on Lot 7 Brand Hwy.

The Shire of Gingin-owned airstrip in Boonanarring is opposite an important navigational aid for the Department of Defence which operates the Gingin satellite airfield and Pearce air base.

The Department of Defence said Defence Aviation Area regulations (DAA regulations) provided a legal framework for controlling activities which may be dangerous to aviation around 12 declared DAAs, which includes the Beermullah airstrip.

In June a Department of Defence spokeswoman said the regulations would only be applicable if the Shire of Gingin were to propose developments on the site which triggered the requirement for a referral to Defence in accordance with the requirements of the regulations.

In 2017 a pilot from Pearce air base flying a PC9 used the Beermullah airstrip for an emergency landing on November 2.

In 2017 a PC9 pilot from Pearce air base carried out an emergency landing at the Beermullah airstrip, which a flying school now wants to use for training purposes. Picture: Department of Defence

One of the recommendations made by the Defence Aviation Safety Authority’s defence flight safety bureau after the emergency landing was for the airstrip to have continuing (enduring) maintenance.

The report also recommended other emergency airstrip maintenance be enduring, the use of airstrips in planning and a 2FTS SI update (airstrip layout).

The Shire of Gingin officer’s report said in a letter dated September 3, GRFC had requested to enter into a lease agreement with the shire for the use of the airstrip and northern access only.

GRFC also indicated it would support payment of a small fee to assist the council in covering the costs of administration for the use of the airstrip.

Shire officers approached GRFC for further clarification regarding its request to use the airstrip and the response included that the club wanted to use the airstrip for training uses only (touch and go circuit) at this time and that no parking on the airstrip was required. GRFC had no issues with maintaining the firebreaks on the property boundary.

According to the report the GRFC response said in co-operation with the Gingin Men’s Shed it would like to investigate the erection of a tourist special interest notice board describing the wartime establishment of the airfield and RAAF activities on and near the airfield from 1943 on.

The report said as previously advised by the shire’s insurance provider, LGIS, entering in to an agreement (lease or other) with an applicant and assigning the risk and liability for the use of the item to the applicant still did not assuage the shire of all risk and liability.

“Should council wish to lease the property then this would be classed as a disposition of property and, as per the Local Government Act 1995 (the Act) s3.58 Disposing of property, would require the shire to give public notice of the proposed disposition and bring it back to council for further consideration if any submissions are received,’’ the report said.

“It is noted that the Local Government (Functions and General) Regulations 1996 r.30 Dispositions of property excluded from Act s. 3.58 provides an exemption from the Act’s disposition of property requirements as follows: (2)(b) that if the land is disposed of to a body, whether incorporated or not – (i) the objects of which are of a charitable, benevolent, religious, cultural, educational, recreational, sporting or other like nature; and (ii) the members of which are not entitled or permitted to receive any pecuniary profit from the body’s transactions.

“However, considering the potential broader impact of proposed flight paths on surrounding landowners, the officer believes that public advertising of the proposal would be appropriate in this instance.’’

The officer’s report also said apart from the airstrip, the remaining area (about 38ha) was pristine banksia woodland (threatened ecological community) and a lease of the airstrip by a third party could limit the ability of the shire to utilise the area as an environmental (clearing) offset in the future, which the shire may want to ‘land bank’ through rezoning as a conservation reserve for a future environmental offset.