The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment has knocked back an application for a lease at Katoomba Airfield at Medlow Bath after "overwhelming community opposition" to the idea.
It is completely surrounded by the World Heritage listed Blue Mountains National Park.
The Department of Industry is currently considering negotiating a new long-term commercial lease over Katoomba Airfield to a private commercial operator.
The previous leasee’s rights over the airfield were forfeited in 2017. In Sept 2017 the Department of Industry called for Expressions-of-Interest (EOI) from parties interested in leasing the site.
As a result of the EOI process, in February 2018, an interim license was issued to a private commercial operator.
The Department of Industry has advised that the licensee was invited to submit a business plan setting out their commercial plans for the site, in preparation to the Department issuing a long-term lease.
No community consultation on options for the future of the airfield occurred prior to an interim license being issued. This would have been the time to consider whether a commercial airfield was appropriate or not. It would also have been the time to undertake an environmental assessment of the land to inform this decision and consider the option of transferring the land to the surrounding national park.
The NSW Government via the Department of Industry (Crown Lands) has previously carried out many studies of the site, culminating in a recommendation in 2000 that the area be added to the Blue Mountains National Park, with the airfield being used for emergency purposes only.
Blue Mountains City Council have previously opposed the continuation of a private lease over the Airfield, requesting that the land be incorporated into the Blue Mountains National Park in 1999, 2000 and 2008. Likewise the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has previously supported the Katoomba Airfield being incorporated into the National Park, with the airfield managed for emergency and bushfire fire-fighting purposes.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service manages a number of airfields within national parks for management and emergency purposes. Specific funding to manage the airfield could be allocated to National Parks from the Bushfire Risk Mitigation and Resilience Program managed by NSW Treasury.
The Conservation Society is working with local residents and community groups - especially the Katoomba Airfield Community Group - to ensure that any proposed use of the airfield does not affect residents and compromise the conservation values of the Blue Mountains National Park and in particular the Grose Wilderness Area.
In December 2018 the Society sent a series of letters regarding the Katoomba Airfield to -
These letters can be found on our 2018 Submissions webpage together with the replies received.
Aircraft movement in the Blue Mountains can be viewed on the Flight Radar website. Although it should be noted that not all aircraft have their transponders turned on - so although you can hear and see them, they are not on the radar.
A petition with over 10,000 signatures has been presented to state parliament and was discussed on 1 August. Here's a transcript of the speeches given.
Here's an interview with Di Shanks on the ABC's 702 on 11 June.