SAFETY CONCERN: The United Firefighters Union says Coffs Harbour Airport is at risk of losing its firefighting service.
SAFETY CONCERN: The United Firefighters Union says Coffs Harbour Airport is at risk of losing its firefighting service. Trevor Veale

Proposal puts aviation firefighting services in jeopardy

COFFS Harbour is one of five regional cities in Australia that would lose its aviation firefighting services if a Federal Government proposal goes ahead.

A Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development proposal would lift the threshold that Aviation Rescue Firefighting Services must be provided at airports from 350,000 to 500,000 passengers per year.

The United Firefighters Union says Coffs Harbour Airport would be at risk of losing its designated services as it had 355,283 passengers in 2014-15, almost 150,000 short of the proposed threshold.

The union's John Miller - who met with aviation firefighters at Coffs Harbour yesterday - said potential cuts would leave passengers without fire protection.

"Aviation firefighters have three minutes to reach a plane crash or fire to give passengers the best chance of survival," he said.

"Aeroplane fuel burns hot and fast and if we don't get there within three minutes, the consequences are devastating."

ARFFs respond to about 6700 emergencies in Australia each year, including aircraft incidents and structural fires.

The proposal states adopting higher passenger threshold would prevent the need for additional aviation firefighting services at growing airports over the next 10 years.

A Department of Infrastructure spokesman said a review of services at Coffs Harbour Airport would not be conducted in the immediate future but passenger levels would be monitored.

He said the department would consider submissions to the proposal and findings would be delivered to the incoming federal government.

Mr Miller yesterday called on Member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker to clarify his position on the proposal.

"Voters have a right to know before the election whether Mr Hartsuyker will stand up to protect passenger safety or sit by and do nothing," he said.

Mr Hartsuyker said he would be "happy to look at proposals on the table and respond appropriately".



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