Tony Morris, from Nest, and Gary Stables, Whangārei District Council airport noise committee member, attended the Kensington meeting to discuss Nest’s base staying in the suburb for several more years.
A Kensington resident is calling on Whangārei District Council (WDC) to set up a formal council rescue helicopter committee for the suburb.
Allan Kerrisk’s call comes ahead of two further council drop-in sessions at Kensington Stadium in the wake of WDC rolling over Northland Emergency Services Trust (Nest)’s soon-to-expire 10-year Kensington helicopter base lease for up to another three years.
The last two of five meetings about the lease extension are on tomorrow from 5pm-7pm (the only evening meeting) and May 25 from 3pm-5pm.
Kerrisk said the new committee was needed for community transparency around the helicopter base shift progress and ongoing noise and fumes mitigation.
“A committee would help keep the players on the fastest track to mitigation and resolution,” Kerrisk said.
The formal council committee would be in place until the helicopter base shifted. It could be set up with residents’ representatives, Nest and the council – along the lines of WDC’s airport noise management committee. It would provide outcomes that were similar to those of the airport committee, Kerrisk said.
“Council setting the committee up would show it is working with affected residents to look at mitigation and ensuring the helicopter base’s move from Kensington is not stalling,” Kerrisk said.
“There would be less community doubt about how things are progressing if the council and Nest engaged in this way”. He said it could hold quarterly helicopter community meetings with Kensington and Regent residents.
Kerrisk attended the second of five community drop-in sessions, saying afterwards he was disappointed to hear Nest would not be moving from Kensington when its current lease expired.
“We found out at the meeting there was no appetite for having an alternative ready in the wings should the court rule in Sound’s [Save our Airport from Undue Noise Disturbance] favour”.
Onerahi airport shift opponents Sound are challenging WDC and Nest over the Kensington-to-Whangārei Airport shift in the High Court. The hearing is due to start on August 11, less than two weeks after the current 10-year lease for the Kensington base expires.
Nest trustee Murray Broadbelt told the heated second drop-in session his organisation was solely focused on shifting from Kensington to the airport, and had no Plan B for its plans to shift to Whangārei Airport.
“Operationally, the airport is the safest place for the helicopter patients and crew to take off,” Broadbelt told the meeting.
Kerrisk said legal proceedings against the shift could drag on for some years, depending on the outcome of the High Court case. There was the potential for the court decision to then be appealed to the Court of Appeal and beyond that to the Supreme Court.
The second council helicopter shift drop-in session recently saw about 25 people attend what was a heated meeting in a packed tiny upstairs Kensington Stadium meeting room. Attendees were forced to spill out of the venue on to an adjacent balcony and also out into its doorway entrance.
Polarised views from across the spectrum were heard from the Kensington and Onerahi residents attending. Kensington attendees’ views ranged from those such as former WDC and Northland Regional Council councillor Bill Rossiter’s, who had no issue with the Nest base being in his suburb, through to base neighbour Roger de Bray, who wanted it gone, saying it was clearly way past time the base shifted.
Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.