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October 24th 2007
AAT dismissive of GBRMPA & CASA over Red Baron

The Red Barron on Horseshoe Bay The future of the Red Baron Seaplane, owned and operated by Islanders Paul and Carol Mills, who run the scenic flights around Magnetic Island, remains in doubt following the release of an "interlocutory" decision by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) after the permits issued by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) authorising the flights were challenged by Horseshoe Bay residents Tanina and Logan Connolly.

The interlocutory decision is not final but rather preliminary or intermediate in that it indicates Justice Garry Downes and Senior Tribunal Member Ms Josephine Kelly's determinations to this point but calls for further evidence.

Their "Preliminary Determination" reads, "... we are concerned about the safety and noise impact of the operation on people. We wish to hear further evidence from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) about its assessment of the safety of the operation and receive further submissions in relation to additional conditions to reduce the noise impact before we finally decide this matter."

A closer reading of the determination reveals that the Tribunal was quite dismissive of arguments put forward by GBRMPA as well as CASA.

One included a GBRMPA permit regulation in which the Authority must consider various effects on, "... nearby areas; and the likely effects of the proposed use on adjoining and adjacent areas,"

The AAT refer to GBRMPA's Legal Council Mr Warren Fellows who, 'conceded that the Connollys' home and the land, air and waters generally of Magnetic Island and Cleveland Bay are encompassed by the phrase "nearby area,"' but that, '"he argued that they did not constitute adjoining and adjacent areas"'.

In an almost Monty Python-like passage the Tribunal set out to provide dictionary definitions of these terms, as in, "The Macquarie Dictionary defines the relevant words as follows: Nearby: close at hand; not far off; adjacent; neighbouring; Adjoining: bordering; contiguous; Adjacent: lying near; close, or contiguous; adjoining; neighbouring." The Tribunal reasoned, "We can see no basis upon which the residential areas close to the waters of Horseshoe Bay or the other bays would not be "adjacent" to the Marine Park when they were well within its sight and sound,"

Noise was the major issue which led to the hearing and the Tribunal explained how it only found the sound measurements of one acoustics consultant, Garry Hall, of assistance. These recordings, "allows a comparison of the aircraft noise and the ambient noise level at particular times in two locations,"

According to the AAT, "At the two residences where he conducted noise monitoring, Mr Hall concluded that the aircraft noise was approximately 25 decibels above the noise levels of jet-skis and outboard dinghies; that is, subjectively six times louder. On the evidence, the noise generated by the aircraft is considerably louder than that of any other use of Horseshoe Bay from the perspective of those residences."

The AAT also refers to attempts to reduce the engine noise.


AAT dismissive of GBRMPA & CASA over Red Baron
Sara Shaw
October 25th 2007
To Tanina and Logan Connolly,
Oh for goodness sake, get over it! The airforce is louder in their latest jets, the airport emitts louder sounds when they need to dispatch planes south, the helicopter which saves lives is louder, and you're worried about the sound of people having a good time in the Red Barron that just putts around the island??? ... Sorry I live in Picnic Bay and maybe you can't hear what happens on the rest of the island.
Move to the country, no one else has a problem here, and as the state Tourism Authorities says, it's a great bonus and adds excitement to the island, and would be a sad loss if it was to go. Give the business that's been mindful of all the legistlation a break, and remove yourselves from the problem. If you don't like it move! No one else has a problem with it. If you want peace and quiet, move to a remote place without the hassles. I'm sorry, but the rest of us are having a good time, even if you're not. And I'm sure the rest of us, including The Red Barron, are tired of your failure to see the simple joys in life!
October 25th 2007
If the aircraft is banned on grounds of danger, then all jet skis should be banned from Horseshoe Bay and probably all boats with propellers. Jet skis go a lot faster than the Red Baron when he is taxiing though the moorings. I would like him banned from flying low over the front before landing though. He seemed to almost bump the houses on the water front about a month ago. I thought it was a victory roll, apparently not if victory is not yet his.
Edwina Carey
October 25th 2007
This business has gone to great lengths and expense to set up a unique tourist attraction for Magnetic Island. Surely the opportunity for discussion about these issues should have been made when permits were applied for. Its outrageous that nearby residents can attempt to close down such a business when they have passed all the strict government requirements for necessary permits. This equates to harrassment in my eyes. If these people wish to live in silence and solitude maybe they should be living on a private island not on waterfront of public beach where these kind of activities are approved by locals and authorities.
October 25th 2007
My dictionary lists 'baron' as a "member of the lowest order of British nobility", a "powerful or influential person", (historically) "one who held lands from the king" and in the case of a 'baron of beef' - a "double sirloin undivided".
What a disgrace that a private individual has had to drag GBRMPA, CASA and whoever else, kicking and screaming, into the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. Just imagine the outrageous expense that the Connollys (let alone the aircraft operator) have had to endure with absolutely no security.
Then again, 'you pays your money, you takes your chance'. Thanks to both parties for sorting out our cumbersome national regulators. I hope neither of you end up having to pay for the privilege.
October 25th 2007
Having just returned from a holiday on Magnetic, we only visited Horseshoe Bay the once this trip. We visit Maggie for the peace and quiet and don't like the noise from Jet Skis and this time, the Red Baron. (Not to mention, the pollution)! I was also concerned about possible safety issues in relation to swimmers/snorkellers in that area.
I remember thinking at the time, I would not like to live in close proximity with that noise going on so regularly.
October 26th 2007
Get a life Connolly's..While you are at it, get a ban on RAAF jets, all jet flights out of Townsville Airport, Rescue Chopper, Jetskis and Thunderstorms all which make much more noise..The Baron is a great attraction and fun for tourists and Islanders..95% of us locals support the Mills, and surely that should count for something with the AAT.
Scott Dittman
October 26th 2007
I think the Red Baron is a great activity and a real incentive to help boost tourism to the Island. Aside from this though, I also feel for the operators as they have done the right thing in navigating through the myriad of laws and approvals to begin their legitimate business only to be caught in the crossfire of a very few self serving minority who unfortuneately could ruin it for the majority of people who think it's a great business.
I also agree with Sara and can't help but wonder if the Connoly's succeed in shutting down the Red Baron will they then be content merely with this or see it as a green light to attack any other business that doesn't fit in with their idyllic lifetstyle.
As for Colin, there are many other bays on the island to wile away the hours if peace and quiet is your cup of tea (Radical, Florence and Arthur bays are particularly relaxing). Horseshoe Bay is one of the busiest bays on the Island and even without the sea plane there are any number of activities occuring in the area not to mention a large proportion of the islands visitors congregating around the esplanade. Please don't bring pollution into the equation as I'm betting that you didn't row a boat to the Island and then pedal a push bike around for transport on your visits either.
To be fair I'd really like to see a petition on the Red Baron as a forum for determining what the majority of the Islanders deem appropriate, then put this whole bloody shamozzle to bed!
October 26th 2007
Interesting that "THE CONNOLLYS" are being judged when, as I read the article, it is the Administrative Appeals Tribunal that has called into question the assessment of an important public safety issue. Surely it is irrelevant who has brought the matter to the Tribunal's attention?
Neither should the applicants (Red Baron) take this situation to be a personal slight on them or their operation. They are not accused of doing anything wrong. The action in the AAT is about the decision of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to issue a permit and the possibility that they may have made an error in not considering ALL the relevant issues. If some flaw is found in the process then we can all be thankful that it was attended to before someone or some thing made a fatal mistake.
Incidentally, this matter first entered the public sphere on April 1, 2005. There has been heaps of public discussion - just not in (loud and fairly uninformed) public forums like this. The matter was never 'done and dusted', even if lots of people wished it was.
And don't forget a young woman drowned after falling out of a speeding tinnie late on night in amongst the moorings in Horseshoe Bay just a couple of years ago. The unpredictable has to figure at some level in the regulator's calculations. Maybe we are being done a favour?
October 26th 2007
The red baron is a colourful,if noisy, sight flying around Magnetic Island.
The waters there however are a peaceful marine park, legislated for the protection of our precious native wild life.
No other marine park to my knowledge would allow so much noisy water traffic. Jet skis, motor craft and the Red Baron included.
October 27th 2007
Oh come on Magnetic Island, how can the community possibly move forward and become a popular holiday destination if we keep bloody whinging about everything!! To become a success, we need to have something to offer everyone. Horseshoe Bay is all about watersports and activities. We have around 25 other bays on the island that offer seclusion, peace and quiet. What more do you want.

In regards to the tribunals worry about the plane crashing into unaware or drunk boat operators. Have they ever been to the Whitsunday's where there are numerous seaplanes taking off and landing all throughout the day in busier waters than off Magnetic Island. There doesn't seem to be any problem there. I don't believe they have a justified argument.

October 27th 2007
Mandy would do well to remind herself of the crash of a helicopter on a landing pontoon in the Whitsundays a few years ago. Freakish thing. Unexpected, killed someone or two - maybe there was a honeymooning foreign couple? I bet no one ever told them it might be, just in a weird sort of way, a bit dangerous under some specific but unusual conditions. That's usually when some innocent person dies.
Even if no one else was paying attention, CASA and GBRMPA learned something from that helicopter crash. I think they changed the whole helicopter landing arrangements after that.
Or maybe you still just 'pay your money and take your chance'.
Scott Dittman
October 28th 2007
Charlie, I think you are straying from the point somewhat. I'm sure we're all aware that although all accidents are avoidable, the specific cause often goes unforeseen until we have the luxury of hindsight. Tragically, many parts of our life even the most mundane are often fraught with dangers that we merely accept with the hope that "It wouldn't ever happen to me
". As you made reference to the drunken boating accident a couple of years ago I think you should have noted that there wasn't an immediate uproar to ban all motorised water craft in the vicinity of the Island and as with the helicopter crash, some inadequacies were highlighted that could minimise the chance of a reoccurence of that particular incident but will certainly never eliminate all risk of putting your well being in the realms of human error, mechanical failure and of course the unpredictability of mother nature.
From what I have been able to glean from George's story however is not so much a tale of a groups concern for the safety of our many water users but rather a concerted effort to shut down a business for the simple fact that they don't like the noise.
Whilst I couldn't agree more that safety should be at the top of the agenda for any operation and I would sincerely hope that the Red Baron operators hold this as their paramount concern. It is simply not a good enough analogy and a little pessimistic to compare previous unrelated tragadies with this venture under the guise of 'what if something went wrong'.
Please lighten up Charlie, this is meant to be fun or you may as well change 'pay your money and take your chance' to 'Get out of bed in the morning at your own peril'!
October 28th 2007
Not meant to be fun Scott. Vexatious or trivial legal actions are very quickly struck out no matter how much money or persistence you think you have. And I didn't mention "drunken" anywhere. Gossip is such a hopeless source of information.
If you don't understand how one person's 'fun' is another person's 'noise' try to explain why domestic (not military) jets approaching or leaving Townsville airport virtually never fly over Magnetic Island.
Safety is only at the top of the agenda here because the AAT has put it there. How could I or any other fun-loving amateur possibly know what should be on the agenda of an air safety inquiry? To just assume that ALL the proper inquiries have been made and all necessary measures are in place could actually be a mistake. When the AAT looked under the carpet in this case it (apparently) found something falling short. That's a good thing isn't it?
Scott Dittman
October 28th 2007
Absolutely agree Charlie, there needs to be some sort of measurement that can quantify what steps need to be taken to maximise the safety of this operation. My point though is that for virtually any activity you could raise countless unlikely but possible scenarios which could be classified as a risk. There has to be a balance reached that allows us to carry out our daily lives with a minimised risk to ourselves and others. For instance, if you were to drive to the barge and take it over to town, do your shopping and return home again an in depth analysis would show that your risk of injury or even death would carry a low but real chance of occuring in a vast variety of circumstances, many of which would be completely beyond your control but nonetheless plausible. We take steps to eliminate as many of the variables as possible but can never achieve a zero chance without eliminating the situation in the first instance.
My problem with this enquiry is that although they find no real evidence to ensure that ALL proper enquiries have been made, neither do they provide the details as to what actual enquiries would serve to alleviate their concerns entirely.
How many other businesses including Sunferries, Fantasea, charter boats, jet skis, etc. have had to undergo the same sort of approvals albeit to a lesser extent without a hitch even though there is still risk involved for the public. At the end of the day they pay their exorbatant insurance premiums and show that they have minimised or eliminated forseeable risks and then they're in business. The reason for life jackets and life rafts on vessels is testament to the fact that they can never fully eliminate all of the risks involved. As you so succintly put it 'Pay your money take your chances'. The real issue in this case to me is I think this has unfortuneately snowballed from a simple noise complaint.
As for the flight paths over Magnetic Island, I am a fly in/fly out mine worker and the flight path of our Alliance Jet out of Townsville almost always sees us tracking out over the island (I really love that last glimpse) before swinging North and finally out to the West. Adversely on the return journey we do the complete opposite which I would assume is to keep clear of outgoing traffic.
Anyhoo this is really is getting too long winded and as I sincerely respect your opinions on this website and enjoy your regular comments I guess we should just agree to disagree on this one.
Scott Dittman.
October 29th 2007
If Scott had read the actual decision (one click at the end of the main article) he would eventually come across this statement:
We are not presently satisfied that the operation is safe in terms of the use of the bays, and in particular the use of Horseshoe Bay. Rather than refusing permission at this time, we wish to hear evidence from CASA on that question or, if CASA is not prepared to assist the Tribunal, we need to hear other expert evidence. As an administrative decision-maker, there is no reason why we cannot adopt this course (see Re International Fund for Animal Welfare (Australia) Pty Ltd and Ors v Minister for Environment and Heritage and Ors [2006] AATA 94; (2006) 42 AAR 262). This is the most sensible and practical course for us to take.

That last sentence says it all.
Scott Dittman
October 29th 2007
Ummm, no it doesn't Charlie. Look, I'm not trying to say that it's not a good thing that the AAT has objections but it would be a lot more proactive to clearly state the targets or objectives to be met so that there is no confusion in the ensuing evidence gathereing. Can we stop this now, I've already offered to 'agree to disagree' but now we're both just starting to look really egotistical.

ps. You assume too much to imply that I haven't read the decision.
December 17th 2007
I love the idea of having the seaplane around weather it really is noisy or not, but is it just me or is it really hard to find anything but articles on it. I was trying to get someone i know a joy ride but at this stage it seems almost impossible. By the way how loud could a seaplane possibly be, i mean if anything it should be quiter than a normal small plane because its got the water under it to muffle the sound. Those of you who think it is to loud need to get a life and start worring about things that actually matter, or get a hobby or something because you have know idea how petty it sounds when someone starts complaining about such a small issue, i would be supprised if it was actuually an issue half of townsville would care to talk about.
December 18th 2007
phoeb, you ask, " loud could a seaplane possibly be...? If you really want to know (and that's not immediately obvious), a detailed summary of the sound effects of THIS seaplane at THIS location is contained in the link mentioned in the last sentence of the above article. You could try reading it.
As for half of Townsville caring to talk about it, given that about 95% of "Townsville" won't see or hear the aircraft ever, it would indeed be surprising.
You also ask, "is it just me or is it really hard to find anything but articles on it", and then helpfully supply your own answer: "You have know (sic) idea how petty it sounds when someone starts complaining about such a small issue". phoeb, it is just you.

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