Transport

Other transport programs

Program 2.4-Air transport (continued)

IV. Managing airport infrastructure

Management of leased federal airports

The Department oversights the operation of 21 federal airports that were privatised between 1997 and 2003 through long-term leases of 50 years with an option to renew for a further 49 years.

The Department is responsible for monitoring compliance with the airport leases, ensuring compliance with the Airports Act 1996 and associated regulations.

In 2009–10, the Department prepared the Airports Amendment Bill 2010. The Bill was introduced into Parliament on 24 June 2010 and is aimed at giving effect to policy changes identified in the Aviation White Paper to improve planning and development controls for the leased federal airports. Among its objectives are greater scrutiny of non-aviation developments, more detailed master plans and ensuring airport sites focus on aviation business.

The Department also finalised various regulatory amendments in 2009–10. These include amendments to: specify that certain developments at airports, identified as incompatible with airport operations, are considered major airport developments; require airports to publish building applications on their website; and clarify who may apply for a building approval on airports. Further regulatory amendments clarified the reporting requirements for airport ownership and requirements for parking signage plans at airports. An overview of the Department's airport regulation program is provided in Appendix I.

Planning approvals

Under the Airports Act 1996, a master plan must be prepared for every leased federal airport except those at Mount Isa and Tennant Creek. The master plan represents the airport-lessee company's planning and development vision for the airport over a 20-year period. The master plan is reviewed every five years and must be the subject of public consultation.

A major development plan is required for each major development at an airport. Section 89 of the Airports Act 1996 defines ‘major developments’; generally, they include any significant building work or any development with a significant environmental impact on the airport site.

All leased airports (other than the Mount Isa and Tennant Creek airports) must also prepare an airport environment strategy which provides for continuous improvement in the environmental management of the airport site. An airport environment strategy is submitted by an airport-lessee company after taking into account public comments, and is reviewed every five years.

The Minister may approve or refuse to approve any master plan, major development plan or environment strategy.

In 2009–10, the Department provided assessments to the Minister, in accordance with the requirements of the Airports Act 1996, on:

  • eight airport master plans
  • four major development plans, and
  • 15 airport environment strategies.

Assessment was also provided on a variation to an airport master plan and variations to two approved major development plans.

A number of the major development plans were approved subject to conditions relating to the management of the impacts of the development and ongoing operational considerations. The conditions of ministerial approval attached to each major development plan are available from the Department's website.

The Department is continuing to assess three airport master plans, two airport environment strategies and three major development plans. Details on each of these statutory planning documents is provided in Appendix I.

Environmental management and building control

Management of the environment at the airport site is the responsibility of the airport lessee. Through the Airports Act 1996 and the Airports (Environment Protection) Regulations 1997, the Department monitors compliance and regulates activities that may have environmental impacts on the airports. Through the Airports Act 1996 and the Airports (Building Control) Regulations 1996, the Department monitors compliance and regulates development at the airports.

The Department has appointed Airport Environment Officers and Airport Building Controllers for each of the leased airports to monitor and ensure compliance with environmental and building standards.

Lease compliance reviews

The Department conducts annual lease reviews of the 21 leased federal airports to ensure compliance with the terms of their leases. In 2009–10, the Department continued to monitor compliance with obligations under the terms of the head lease, including the requirement to make payments in lieu of land taxes and rates. The Department also assesses the adequacy of airport insurance cover each year, with the assistance of a contracted insurance adviser.

Details of the annual airport lease review meetings and the insurance review for 2009–10 are in Appendix I.

Airport price regulation

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) monitors airport prices and quality of aeronautical services in accordance with Parts 7 and 8 of the Airports Act 1996 and the Trade Practices Act 1974. In March 2010, the ACCC published its report for 2008–09 on prices, costs and profits, the quality of aeronautical services, and facilities and car parking, at the five monitored airports: Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne (Tullamarine), Perth and Sydney (Kingsford Smith).

The ACCC reports only apply to domestic airport services and facilities that are owned and operated by the airport-lessee companies. The ACCC does not monitor prices and services provided at the Qantas-leased domestic terminals at Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney airports or the Virgin terminal at Brisbane Airport. International terminals at the five airports are included in the monitoring.

For the 2008–09 financial year, the ACCC reported that a 0.7 per cent decrease in international passengers was offset by a 1.8 per cent increase in domestic passengers, resulting in an overall increase in passenger numbers at the five airports, to 93.3 million. Both aeronautical revenue and expenses per passenger increased at the monitored airports, resulting in little change in operating margins compared to the previous year. The quality of aeronautical services also increased slightly at all airports in 2008–09.

Car parking revenue is a significant contributors to airports' profitability; charges increased in 2008–09 at all airports except Brisbane Airport. The ACCC report suggested that airports are in a position to set car parking prices above an efficient level through monopoly rents and by controlling alternatives to land-side access to the terminal.

The Australian Government was sufficiently concerned about the ACCC findings in relation to airports' planning and investment in aeronautical services to announce that it will bring forward to 2010 the Productivity Commission review of airport price regulation that had been scheduled for 2012.

Regional airline access to Sydney Airport

In the Aviation White Paper, the Government made a commitment to maintain the regional airline access arrangements for Sydney Airport. The Department worked with the Treasury to help effect this commitment. On 28 May 2010, the Australian Government issued a new declaration and direction under the Trade Practices Act 1974, formally extending the price-capping arrangements for regional airline services from 1 July 2010 to 30 June 2013. The direction limits future price increases for regional airline regular passenger transport flights operating wholly within New South Wales to increases matching the Consumer Price Index, and requires Sydney Airport to notify the ACCC of proposed increases.

Slot management at Sydney Airport

The Department oversees slot management at Sydney Airport under the Sydney Airport Demand Management Act 1997. The objectives of the regime are to:

  • provide an effective means of administering the movement limit
  • alleviate delays caused by congestion
  • safeguard access for regional airlines
  • provide equal access to slots for new entrants, and
  • spread aircraft movements more evenly within hours.

The Department is working with relevant industry stakeholders to develop amendments to the Slot Management Scheme 1998, and to the Determination of Sydney Airport Compliance Scheme 1998 to ensure the continued efficiency and effectiveness of this program.

Administrative reporting on the extent to which the objectives of the schemes are being addressed is being monitored by the Department in accordance with the performance measures identified in the Table 4.13. The Department is satisfied that the scheme's objectives are being met.

Table 4.13 Objectives and performance measures of the Sydney Airport slot management legislative regime
Objective Performance measures
Provide an effective means of administering the movement limit Airservices Australia movement limit reports.

Monitoring of compliance with allocated slots through the Sydney Airport Compliance Committee.

Annual performance reviews of the Slot Manager.
Alleviate delays caused by congestion Graphed statistics of on-time performance of all services since implementation of the scheme.
Safeguard access for regional airlines Graphed statistics of weekly runway movements showing the share of slots allocated to regional operators.
Provide equal access to slots for new entrant Reporting on airlines that have requested slots or commenced operations.
Spread aircraft movements more evenly within hours Graphed statistics of aircraft movements for each 60 minutes across the busiest operational hours at Sydney Airport.

Reimbursement of parking fines

Eight leased federal airports (Brisbane, Gold Coast, Hobart, Launceston, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney and Townsville) participate in the Parking Infringement Notices Scheme. The airports administer vehicle control regimes on behalf of the Australian Government in accordance with the Airports (Control of On-Airport Activities) Regulations 1997. Revenue collected by the airports for parking offences is remitted to the Australian Government and airports are reimbursed, up to a set maximum amount, to partially offset their costs in administering the scheme.

The Australian Government enacted new regulations on 9 June 2010 to improve the level of information available to the public about parking regimes at participating airports. The airports are now required to publish Parking Signage Plans on their websites. Regulations were also enacted to provide airports greater operational flexibility in administering the scheme.

In 2009–10, a series of administrative oversights dating from 2004, which had resulted in the Department not maintaining the necessary authorisations for personnel at the participating airports, were identified. As a result of the oversights, a large number of parking infringement notices issued after 2004 were potentially invalid. The Parliament has since passed legislation to validate all potentially invalid actions performed under the regulations, including the issuing of parking infringement notices. This legislation provides certainty that people who paid parking infringement notices will remain immune from prosecution for the parking offences.

Ameliorating the environmental impacts of aircraft movements

Noise amelioration programs

The Department has administered noise amelioration programs at Adelaide and Sydney airports, providing funds to install noise insulation for eligible residences and public buildings under major flight paths. The program for Sydney Airport was completed in January 2010, having proven to be an effective tool to help reduce the impacts of aircraft noise for residents living near the airport.

In Adelaide, two additional churches were identified as being eligible for funding as public buildings in 2008–09; insulation work commenced on the buildings early in 2010.

The Department's ongoing management of a limited number of warranty issues will continue in 2010–11. The Department will also continue to monitor and map the noise contours in Sydney and Adelaide on an annual basis.

The costs associated with the noise amelioration program at Adelaide Airport have been recovered through a levy on jet aircraft landings at the airport, under the Aircraft Noise Levy Act 1995. This levy ceased on 31 March 2010 as adequate funds have been collected to complete the program (the equivalent levy at Sydney Airport ceased on 1 July 2006). Airservices Australia was authorised to collect the levy on behalf of the Department. Receipts totalling $7.2 million collected under the Aircraft Noise Levy Collection Act 1995 in 2009–10 are reported in the Department's audited financial statements as required by the Act.

Curfews

To minimise the impact of night-time noise on nearby communities, restrictions on aircraft movements are applied, through legislated curfews, at the Adelaide, Essendon, Gold Coast and Sydney airports. The curfews, which operate between the hours of 11 pm and 6 am, limit the number and type of aircraft that can be operated and stipulate which runways can be used.

In 2009–10, the Department:

  • assessed 65 applications for curfew dispensation-15 for Adelaide, 2 for Gold Coast (Coolangatta) and 48 for Sydney, and
  • approved 28 curfew dispensations-6 for Adelaide and 22 for Sydney.

International cooperation on noise and climate change

The Department represented Australia on the ICAO Group on International Aviation and Climate Change, which was established to recommend an aggressive program of action to address greenhouse gas emissions from international aviation. The program of action developed by the group was adopted into formal recommendations for future action on climate change by a high-level meeting of ICAO member states in October 2009. The Department is a member of a group that was set up by the President of the ICAO Council in January 2010 to take the recommendations forward to the meeting of the ICAO Assembly which is due to be held in September-October 2010.

The Department participated in the eighth triennial meeting of ICAO's Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection in February 2010. In September 2009, the Department played an active role in the second meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Aviation Emissions Task Force, held in Singapore.

Community resources

The Department continued to provide secretariat support to the Sydney Airport Community Forum. The forum is a consultative committee composed of federal, state and local governments and community representatives, which considers aircraft noise issues affecting the community.

The Department also continued to refine its Transparent Noise Information Package, a software tool that enables the non-specialist to gain a better understanding of aircraft noise exposure patterns and aircraft carbon emissions. The package is available free of charge from the Department's website.

Management of properties at Badgerys Creek

The Australian Government owns and leases out commercial and residential properties on a site at Badgerys Creek, New South Wales, originally acquired for a proposed second major airport for Sydney. The Department administered the leases during 2009–10 to ensure the Australian Government met its obligations as a landlord.

As part of the delivery of the Aviation White Paper, the Australian Government announced that the construction of an airport at Badgerys Creek is no longer an option. The future of the Badgerys Creek site will be considered as part of a joint Australian Government—New South Wales Government study to assess options for delivering additional airport capacity in the Sydney region.

National Airports Safeguarding Advisory Group

In the Aviation White Paper, the Australian Government committed to work with the state and territory governments to develop a national planning regime for land use near airports and under flight paths, to minimise the location of sensitive developments in areas affected by aircraft operations.

The Department has established the National Airports Safeguarding Advisory Group to collect, evaluate information and provide advice to ministers on the formulation of a national approach to planning around airports. The group consists of officials from Australian Government and state and territory government agencies.

The first meeting of the group was held on 7 May 2010. All state and territory governments were invited to participate by nominating planning and transport representatives to the group. A representative from local government has been invited to participate in future meetings.

The safeguarding work will cover the following themes:

  • development of land use planning arrangements outside the perimeter of airports that will minimise sensitive developments being located in areas affected by aircraft operations
  • improvement and enhancement of public information and understanding regarding the impacts of aircraft noise
  • development of guidance material for airports and off-airport planning developers and authorities on the potential wind shear and mechanical turbulence effects of new constructions
  • development of guidelines for wildlife hazard management in and around airports to minimise bird strike and other wildlife hazards
  • development of guidelines to address technical and navigation issues relating to wind turbine developments, with regard to the potential for electromagnetic interference as well as the potential physical obstruction for aircraft
  • strengthening of arrangements to protect airspace around airports
  • prevention of unnecessary lighting and other pilot distractions from off-airport sourcess, and
  • detailed examination of the implications of public safety zones in the vicinity of airports.
Case Study-National Aviation Policy White Paper

The National Aviation Policy White Paper: Flight Path to the Future (the Aviation White Paper), Australia's first comprehensive national aviation policy, provides a roadmap to help secure the future of the aviation industry while maintaining the highest safety and security standards and addressing community needs.

The release of the Aviation White Paper was the culmination of 20 months of policy development by the Department.

In April 2008, the Australian Government announced that it would publish Australia's first comprehensive national aviation policy. The announcement was followed by the release of an issues paper, which detailed a range of challenges and issues confronting the Australian aviation industry, by the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government.

More than 290 submissions were made in response to the issues paper. The Department was responsible for coordinating the development of a green paper (policy discussion paper) covering the matters raised in the issues paper and the responses to it. This included conducting extensive consultations to ensure that all interested stakeholders had an opportunity to provide input into the policy proposals identified in the green paper.

The green paper was released in December 2008, and set out possible future policy settings in the areas of international air services; domestic and regional air services; general aviation; skills; consumer protection; airport infrastructure; greenhouse gas emissions; and aircraft noise.

Following the release of the green paper, a further 234 submissions were received from aviation stakeholders and others with an interest in the industry, the services it provides and the impacts it has on communities and the environment. The Department was responsible for analysing the submissions and facilitating further consultation to help develop the final policy document.

In December 2009, the Australian Government released the Aviation White Paper, detailing a range of policy settings and initiatives for the long-term direction of the Australian aviation industry. The Department is now coordinating the implementation of those initiatives across government agencies and the industry.

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Last Updated: 24 October, 2014