Silent protest brings Council meeting to a standstill

Some of the airport supporters at the council meeting with (centre front) Ben Morgan from the Australian Owners’ and Pilots’ Association and Andrew Smith, CEO of the Central Coast Aero Club

About 150 supporters of the airport at Warnervale brought a Central Coast council meeting to a standstill when they stood in silent protest at a decision on Monday night, August 12.
The Mayor, Jane Smith, called an adjournment and the Youtube livestream was turned off when the people started to stand in silent protest as councillors failed to rescind a decision made at a previous meeting.
The previous meeting had decided to remediate land near the runway that had been “reportedly” cleared in August or September, 2015.
Only Cr Greg Best spoke in favour of the rescission motion and when it went to the vote, only Councillors Pilon, McLachlan, Burke and Marquart supported him.
The gallery was full with every seat taken.
Earlier in the evening, the Mayor had directed the people standing to be moved to an overflow room where they could watch the proceedings on video.
When the vote was taken, residents in the gallery who were supporting the airport stood in silence.
Other people who attended the meeting to hear about other matters including the new tree policy remained seated.
The Mayor asked the residents to clear the gallery and some people did leave the room but about half the group refused to go, yelling out that they had done nothing wrong.
The meeting was adjourned and numerous councillors left the room.
Security staff and council officers tried to get people to leave the gallery, saying the meeting would not recommence until they did.
However, people said they had a democratic right to be there.
The Mayor said the two further matters about the airport were likely to be deferred unless the gallery emptied.
The stand-off continued for about 15 minutes.
The Mayor then called the meeting to order and asked councillors if they were willing to continue.
They voted to continue and the meeting moved on to the next airport issue.
This was another Cr Best motion calling on council to fast track the airport users licence agreement.
The councillors did not debate the motion but moved immediately to vote on it after Cr Best introduced it.
Only two of the 13 councillors present did not vote for it.
This was the third item about the airport and the result was applauded by the airport supporters with most of them then leaving the meeting.
Earlier, the councillors had voted to engage an external specialist to undertake an up-to-date survey and analysis of the obstacle limitation surface at the southern and northern ends of the airport and to start the required environmental studies to seek approval to manage tree heights on the approach to the runway.
The night had begun with five supporters of the airport speaking at the public forum which began at 5pm.
With the Code of Meeting Practice stating that residents only speak on items on the agenda, they had three items to choose from and it caused confusion among the councillors who attempted to question the speakers.
The Mayor told the councillors many times they were asking questions on the wrong items.
Central Coast Aero Club General Manager, Andrew Smith, talked about the height of the trees being a safety issue and asked for more consultation from council.
The last speaker was, Tash Richardson, 16, who said she gained her recreational pilot licence at the airport.
She asked council to do whatever it could to continue the airport operation.
“The cost of becoming a pilot is the same as getting a university degree and that money goes straight into the local community,” she said, describing the airport’s accessibility and community as what made it attractive.
Cr Doug Vincent asked if Richardson thought the airport should become a jet airport.
“The way it is at the moment is perfect,’’ she replied, to cheers from the gallery.

Central Coast Council meeting, Aug 12
Items 2.4, 6.1, 7.1.
Journalist, Merilyn Vale

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