Helicopter commute riles residents
June 17 2003 - A plan by a company executive to commute by helicopter from his Mornington Peninsula property to work in Melbourne has raised the ire of nearby residents.
High-flying Visy Industries chief executive Harry Debney has asked Mornington Peninsula Shire Council to approve the use of his property as a helipad for daily commuting.
But the plan has angered locals, attracting objections from more than 180 residents.
"Most people are concerned that this application would open the flood gates,"Mornington Peninsula Shire mayor Cr David Renouf said.
"Commuter (helicopter) traffic ... has the potential to be a real amenity problem."
Sandra Parker, spokeswoman for Control of Helicopters on the Peninsula, said Mr Debney had already been flying from Red Hill South for a year without council approval.
The Red Hill resident, who lives a block away from Mr Debney's property, told ABC radio that giving Mr Debney a council permit to fly from his home would disturb the peace.
"It's pretty horrific when it goes overhead,"she said. "He wants to fly each day to work, and he also wants occasional use on weekends."
"We're obviously very concerned about that."
She said the permit application also raised safety concerns. "In its flight path, the helicopter actually flies over a public (thoroughfare) where school children ride their horses after school.
"It spooks the horses - they run into fences - and one adult rider has actually been thrown off her horse."
"It's an immense noise (which arises) very suddenly."
The permit application comes before council on Monday. Cr Renouf refused to comment on how councillors would vote, noting that they had not seen final details of the application and relevant objections.
Visy Industries spokesman Tony Gray said Mr Debney's use of the helicopter was a matter of corporate necessity.
"Visy probably has more than 10 sites around Victoria which have helipads on them - a number in Melbourne and in country areas like Wodonga and Shepparton,"he said.
"From a time point of view, it just makes things so much more efficient if we can use the helicopter to get him around."
Ms Parker said rejection of the application would not cause undue inconvenience to the powerful executive.
"He (Mr Debney) can get up from his bed and drive only 15 minutes to Tyabb Airport. There he can fly his helicopter from Tyabb to the city."
But Mr Gray said use of Tyabb Airport would not resolve residential concerns.
"If he and all the 20 other helicopters which are on the Peninsula are told the only place (they) can take off or land is Tyabb, all you are going to do is create a great loss of amenity in and around that area. You are not going to fix the problem."
He added that Mr Debney's use of a helicopter would cause less than 10 minutes of disruption for Red Hill residents each day.
Mr Debney is one of a number of wealthy but time-poor individuals, including Lindsay Fox and Kerry Packer, who have been involved in battles with residents over the use of helicopters.
Mornington Peninsula residents are still waiting for the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to resolve the dispute over Lindsay Fox's use of helicopters from Portsea.
Cr Tyabb said Mornington Peninsula Shire councillors had responded to the growing friction by asking council officers to look for sites on the Peninsula which would be suitable for helicopter landings and departures.
"It's going to be a very hard job because I can just about guarantee that anyone living within a couple of kilometres of those proposed sites will object. However, strategically I think we need to do that."
Helicopter commute riles residents
June 17 2003
By Kenneth Nguyen
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