Trees on Beacon Hill were lopped earlier this week in accordance with CASA’s safety regulations.
Trees on Beacon Hill were lopped earlier this week in accordance with CASA’s safety regulations.

Overgrown trees almost cut flights

COFFS Harbour has come perilously close to losing jet flights operated by Virgin Australia because of the city council's failure to negotiate a solution during the past three-and-a-half years.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) first alerted Coffs Harbour City Council of the need to lop the overgrown vegetation on the southern side at Beacon Hill in January 2009 with warnings that it was making it difficult and dangerous for larger planes approaching from the north to land

But the issue was mired in red tape until local MP Andrew Fraser recently stepped in.

As a direct result of his intervention this week the height of the bushes and trees was reduced by almost two metres.

Mr Fraser said without the trimming of the vegetation CASA would have been forced to stop Virgin jet flights landing in Coffs Harbour because of concerns for passenger safety.

He said the bureaucratic stand-off was because the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) was reluctant to issue a licence to the council allowing it to maintain the Beacon Hill area.

With that issue resolved, the council has been able to trim the bush and trees to below a height acceptable to CASA

Coffs Harbour City Council's executive manager of business units Colin Spring said a temporary solution to the impasse had been found.

"We currently have a 12-month licence from DPI, but that's only an interim situation obviously," Mr Spring said. "Anything we need to do in the next 12 months, provided our environmental approvals are in place, we can carry out that work, but we're certainly searching for a permanent solution with the government."

While happy that a solution had been found, Mr Spring admitted earlier action would've been ideal.

"In theory you're supposed to take immediate action and we were obviously trying to do that but it took some time to organise the paperwork," he said.

Mr Spring said the council had a survey done each year of any objects that obstruct the flight path.

CASA gets a copy of that report and directs the council to carry out any required rectification work.



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