Magnetic Island North Queensland
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A young koala's beach adventure

November 2nd 2007
TEL flys to Red Baron's side

Following comments reported in today's Townsville Bulletin by Island resident David "Crusty" Herron, Townsville Enterprise's CEO Glenys Schuntner has made the peak tourist body's resources available to the operators of the Red Baron Seaplane, Paul and Carol Mills, whose permits to operate their sightseeing flights around Magnetic Island are presently being challenged in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

Townsville Enterprise Chief Executive Officer Glenys Schuntner said tourism is important to the future of the island and the organisation is assisting the start up operator with the resources it has available.

"Magnetic Island is the jewel in the region's crown. For tourism to thrive in North Queensland it's vital that small businesses like the Red Baron are able to operate in Horseshoe Bay," she said.

"We have offered the Red Baron our full support since their plight was brought to our attention through all the means at our disposal. We have offered to prepare letters of support to relevant authorities, contacted our law firm members seeking assistance on their behalf, spoken to national media advocating their case, and provided a number of opportunities for them to promote themselves through travel media."

"We are a not for profit organisation promoting the region, and we're doing all we can with the resources we have to support Paul and Carol Mills in their fight to stay afloat."

"We are prepared to advocate on their behalf, and with the future of tourism in Horseshoe Bay in mind."

"Once we have all the details on the case from the Red Baron we will prepare a submission to the Tourism Minister's office and Tourism Queensland."

It seems however that the Tourism body and the Mills are distancing themselves from the comments made by Mr Herron who, according to the Townsville Bulletin, "...said nowhere had it been stated that the regulated maximum ambient noise levels had been exceeded on land, water or while taking off."

The Interlocutory determination of the AAT notes however that, "At the two residences where he (aucoustic expert Mr Garry Hall) 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. We accept the evidence, summarised above, of those witnesses who complained that that they find the aircraft noise loud and intrusive."

Mr Herron is also reported saying, "For over a year now the Red Barron has operated safely - no accidents, no injuries, no deaths - and has no detrimental impact on thousands of residents and visitors on flora, fauna or marine biota,"

The AAT however comments, "Perhaps safety is not a matter of concern to CASA (Civil Aviation Safety Authority) in the present case. However, if that is so we would wish to have evidence to that effect. We would then think it necessary to have some other expert aviation evidence on the safety issues...We are concerned, at least in part, with potential propeller or similar injuries, which is not a general sea navigation issue. While CASA is aware of the operations on Horseshoe Bay, it is not clear whether CASA is aware that the Authority's permission would allow 11 flights per day for 365 days a year from Horseshoe Bay. It is not clear whether CASA is aware that the aircraft taxis through people boating and swimming, as well as moored boats. It is not clear that CASA is aware that the time when the aircraft is most used will coincide with the greatest recreational use of the water."

In her press release Ms Shuntner recommends, "that the Townsville Bulletin should get comments from the Red Baron and Townsville Enterprise directly and check what allegations are made by third parties."

The press release adds that, "Red Baron owners Paul and Carol Mills today distanced themselves from Mr Herron's claims - while appreciating the support of anyone fighting to keep them in the air."

To read our previous story on the AAT's determination (click here)

To read the ATT's full determination (click here)

To add your comment, see below

TEL flys to Red Baron's side
Chris C
November 2nd 2007
Two responses come to mind:
1) "For tourism to thrive in North Queensland, it
November 2nd 2007
Mr Herron is totally wrong in his claim that the plane has had no detrimental effect on Horseshoe Bay residents. Where is his evidence? Has he surveyed the residents of the Bay?
Glenys Shuntner
November 2nd 2007
I note that Townsville Enterprise has been assisting Red Barron before today\'s article. You incorrectly imply that we did nothing until the article appeared. We applaud the work that Crusty Herron is doing to support Red Barron, but he should have checked with both involved parties before making unfounded allegations in the media. If people have a problem, why don\'t they pick up the phone rather than starting a blame game?
November 3rd 2007
I would ban dogs and cats from the Island, enforce neutering of those already on the island and impose a 40km speed limit.
How do we know what effect the Red Baron has on our wildlife? I'm suprised that Tel will back up the Red Baron simply on the grounds that it's something else a tourist might like to do. Have they looked in to any of the other issues surrounding this one?
We're turning the Island into suburbia where people and their every little foible are put before wildlife and its needs. Magnetic Island is supposed to be a World Heritage Site.
I can't make up my mind on this one. It's fun and adds character, but I'm not sure that makes it OK. Magnetic Island isn't a theme park.
Let's have real reasons for disallowing it though. Does anyone really ever swim in the vicinity of the Red Baron buoy? Is a boat ever going to get in the way of a taxiing red baron? There'll be plenty of warning with the noise the engine makes.
November 3rd 2007
In the AAT's determination i read they have asked for submissions over the next week that help balance the interests of the red baron operators and those of residents, bay and beach users. I would like to think the operators may be prepared to do some logical things to limit the noise impact their plane creates. For instance would the operators consider modifying there EMP to formally control the following aspects of their operation: define an area in the bay for taking off and landing that is further to the west and further from shore than is currently occuring, not flying so close to houses and the foreshore on there loop around the bay before landing, define and or limit the number of days they operate from horseshoe bay each week (perhaps utilise some of their other permitted areas including the strand), define and limit the daily hours of operation, and finally, find ways to reduce the sound being emitted from the engine and propeller during take-off.
Maybe with a bit of compromise there is a way to succesfully operate the red baron in horseshoe bay while reducing the noise impact.
November 5th 2007
The Red Baron is between a rock and a hard place. If they could "...define an area in the bay for taking off and landing that is further to the west and further from shore than is currently occurring...", they would have done that already. The evidence from the AAT determination suggests that the operators have done (nearly) everything in their power to limit the noise of the operation without effective result. They don't want to delineate an exclusion zone and perhaps TEL is not promoting that idea either. In fact it is hard to see how TEL's advocacy can help in the face of a direct demand from the Tribunal for compelling evidence that taxiing the plane through an uncontrolled area (without brakes?) doesn't have serious safety issues. A "bit of compromise" may not be sufficiently robust insurance regardless of the positive attributes of this business.
November 5th 2007
Typical that the concerns of ordinary residents WHO LIVE IN HORSESHOE BAY are trampled by the Call-to-Tourist-Dollars. My friends -- long term residents -- are considering selling up and leaving, because of the racket. Some local residents have had their highly valued peace and quiet, and sense of isolation totally destroyed.
Having the equivalent of a small platoon of lawnmowers shatter the former peace of this part of the island, many times each day at the height of the season, is an offence to both the senses and the place.

But I'm not surprised that TEL has thrown their weight in. The forces in support of Magnetic-Island-Tourist-Mecca, the now thoroughly despoiled Jewel in the Crown (demonstrable on many grounds: economic (eg Picnic Bay traders, the local butcher etc etc), ecological (eg Radical Bay), and cultural (eg Sports and Rec Club) -- the guts of 'sustainability') -- have a long history of bulldozing the locals in support of a wider economic agenda.

Development focused on the tourist experience, as per the Magnetic Island process, is well documented globally as introducing a new whole strata into local communities, whilst relegating non-service residents to second class status in their own places. It's known as the Club Med phenomena.

It's a pity that the operators of the Red Baron couldn't find a noisier place to start their enterprise. There are enough other tourist meccas on the Queensland coast to pick from.
November 6th 2007
If the Red Baron is not noisier than some other water craft in the bay and is within legal noise limits, one has to ask why is it being picked on in particular?
November 6th 2007
Maybe it is jealously on some peoples' behalf.
Jet skies racing around 1 2 and 3 at a time all day are far more dangerous and noisy taking off for 20 minutes at a time as long as people are there to hire them.
What training the pilot has exceeds the training of jet ski hirers.
Mercy flights in emergencies are also worth thinking about.
November 7th 2007
According to the AAT decision published in an earlier story in Magnetictimes, measurements made at Horseshoe Bay show the Red Baron to be considerably noisier than jet skis. The figures are in the decision link.
Mercy flights? In the Red Baron? I'd like to see that!
George Hirst
November 8th 2007
Attn readers: Following is some correspondence begun last week between myself and TEL CEO Glenys Shuntner following her comment near the top of this comments section. (Ed)

Hi Glenys
Sorry if we made an unfounded implication. I have now posted your comment to put your view.

I am however somewhat surprised (as was one of our readers) as my experience has been that TEL are not in the business of assisting (particularly to such an extent) the operations of non TEL member businesses. I learned today that TEL is yet to receive membership payments from the Red Baron.

To clarify the matter I would be grateful if you could you indicate how long TEL has been assisting the Red Baron and in what capacity and what TEL's policy is towards assisting non-member businesses?

George Hirst Ed
Glenys Shuntner
November 8th 2007
HI George,
Thanks for your response.

Red Baron has been a member of Townsville Enterprise and we have had a very good working relationship to help promote not only their business but all tourism to Magnetic Island. They have supported Townsville Enterprise media famils to show off the island, generating great promotion of all it has to offer . During this difficult period for them, we have been keen to provide support, for example, in writing letters of support and advocating on their behalf to some key contacts to help get a decision in their favour to keep their business flying and promoting Magnetic Island.

Why are we so keen to assist?
1. We have a good, working 2-way business relationship with Red Baron to promote our region and want to keep them here as a successful operation as part of our tourism experience.

2. We are very concerned about the precedents that could be set if a very small group of residents can take action against a small tourism operator and set them up for a long and costly legal case when they have done everything right by all the regulations they had to deal with to be operational in the first place. If they have a negative decision made against them, then many operators up and down the GBR will be fearing their business futures and their ability to employ people ongoing.

3. If such a small business is targeted by local residents, then new potential investors will be put off even looking at our region. They will not bring their dollars, new products to attract tourists and be enjoyed by locals and will take their investment dollars to our competing destinations instead. This would not auger well for the future of tourism for the island or our region as a whole.

Tourism is a major employer and income generator on the island. Without tourists, it would be even more difficult to run ferry services, operate shops, restaurants etc. It was great that so many people recognised that on Sunday on the island.

George - are you doing anything online to lobby support behind the Red Baron?
Cheers, Glenys
George Hirst
November 8th 2007
Hi Glenys, Thank you too for your response. I asked the questions because I think transparency in the actions of large public bodies such as TEL is crucial even though I am very sympathetic to the plight of the Red Baron. TEL has received substantial funding from Townsville City Council and, through their rates, non-TEL businesses owners, as well as the rate paying residents involved in this Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) case. From your response it seems then that the Red Baron had ended their membership with TEL but are now renewing it.

My concern however is that the Red Baron's unfortunate situation has been interpreted solely in terms of, "a small group of local residents taking action against a small tourism operator". What we have tried to explain is that, while the Red Baron could well be affected, the "small group of residents" are actually taking the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to the AAT over their permit issuing process (the Red Barron is a "joined party" to this) and in this action these maligned individuals may eventually be seen as having provided a service to the wider community in terms of safety and excessive noise in an area where tourism businesses rely on the natural values (including relative quietness) of the bay to attract visitors.

Reading what the AAT said is pretty strong stuff. Having examined all sides of the issues they clearly see big problems with safety and have concerns over the noise levels which they found were, on take-off, 6 times louder than jet skis.

Justice Downes describes assurances GBRMPA accepted from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) as "not nearly sufficient". Decisions by such authorities have to work properly for everybody and it is, in my opinion, not helpful to imply that this is just residents vs a business operator while these 900lb authority gorrillas are in the midst. To me the real tragedy for the Red Baron, is that such large public bodies could place them in such peril from legal challenge.

For all the well-intended support for this cute plane and its operators I am amazed at how little attention the role of the responsible public authorities is receiving. Though I realise this isn't your responsibility Glenys, the Townsville Bulletin has barely published a line from the AAT instead focussing and, I believe, fuelling conflict amongst residents while keeping them uninformed. Surely when a judge hoes into major public authorities it is an important story?

When you worry that "potential new investors might be put off even looking at our region," I wonder what is really at stake and reflect on the tragic death of Naomi La Monica who died in October 2005 from a rubber dingy propeller accident in the very same waters the Red Barron taxis through. Naomi's death was not far removed from the scenario Justice Downes describes, "We are concerned about the safety of the operation on a hot Sunday afternoon when the aircraft is taxiing through moorings, with swimmers, people in dinghies and jet-skiers about. Those swimmers and users might not be at their most alert, and may have consumed alcohol. Frankly, we think that there is real danger in the aircraft operating in these conditions. No expert evidence is before us to allay our concerns."

I'm also concerned at the attitude your comment embodies towards the role of the AAT when you say, "we have been ... advocating on their behalf to some key contacts to help get a decision in their favour" This sounds to me as dangerously close to interferring with due legal process.

As for your question, "are you doing anything online to lobby support behind the Red Baron?" it assumes that we should not even consider the full and more complex story. My job is, unlike much of yours, not that of a lobbiest. My job is to present readers with the information they need to draw their own conclusions and with the contributions our readers have made so far I would argue that our approach has provided the most extensive coverage for all opinions.

George Hirst, Ed.

November 12th 2007
No doubt Crusty, Glenys and Co. will have recovered sufficiently from Saturday night's tourism awards function to turn up at the AAT this week. But will they have done their homework?
Given that the Tribunal has indicated it will likely terminate the GBRMPA permit UNLESS it hears compelling evidence on the adequacy of the Authority's investigation of safety, noise and non-compliance issues, those self-propelled (expert?) advocates will have their hands damn full.
My bet is they won't be seen within curlew call of the place, instead opting for somewhere shady, still and free of intrusive background noise. Somewhere like Horseshoe Bay on a non-holiday Monday morning.
November 15th 2007
There seems to allot of concern about the effect on the environment by the complainants.

I hope the complainants have - in the interest of looking after all creatures that live and visit Maggie Island - refrained from driving thier vehicles to access thier properties for the next few months.


The turtles are laying eggs!!! Don't disturb the turtles 9they may never come back)! Don't crush or damage the eggs and kill the hatchlings before they have a chance to live!

It therefore would make sense if these enviromently concious residences set the example and refrain from all beach driving till all our fragile hatchlings are in the water.
November 17th 2007
you shouldn't just stop at the drivers natalie, you should: stop the walkers pounding the beach by the droves; stop children playing on the beach with their balls; stop the tourists playing volleyball; stop the runners,jogging up and down the beach; stop everyone walking their dogs; stop the yachts from pulling their dingies into shore; stop the horses in horsehoe bay; stop the jetskis in horseshoe bay from making a racket so that the turtles at least can get to the beach,in fact, just stop everyone from accessing the beaches all over the island so the turtles can have a fair go.

also that picture of that nesting turtle alongside the road in nelly bay(great article and great picture) does that suggest we should all refrain from driving along the road in nelly bay?
Go the turtles.
Alex Andreassen
November 19th 2007
As a tour guide who works on the island and a regular visitor, I would have to add that the environmental concerns expressed by the "Secret Seven" has no foundation.
I am an environmental scientist, degree I have done at JCU and in my time at uni we have explored most of the environmental issues and concerns of the island.
If there hasn't been a study carried out by qualified scientist to support the Secret Seven's environmental concerns, I will assume that the Magistrate/QPWS/QLD Ministry for ther Environment and all those involved in handling out a decision will dismiss the claim without hesitation.
I am a regular visitor to Horseshoe Bay, Balding Bay, Radical Bay and Florence Bay and I've seen the Red Baron fly and the noise the machine makes does not disturb in any sort of alarming way to the birds that live in these bays.
On the contrary, I do always see those whistling kites at Horsehsoe Bay, the same Brahminy kites at Balding Bay, the same kites and Sea Eagles and Ospreys at Radical, and the same Crows at Florence go along with their lives.
As someone mentioned in a letter to the Townsville Bulletin, you do actually get more noise from the traffic and people along Horseshoe Bay than the Red Baron, which by the way may actually have on an average day 4 or 5 trips.
With all the support by the island community and also Townsville, other tour operators; it is imperative that the Secret Seven drop their complaint and let the operators of the Red Baron do business.
You guys are hurting honest hard working people. Horseshoe Bay is a residential area with some sort of an opening for tourist operations, you should've known that when you moved into the bay to live. It's not a secluded place and it ain't a national park either.
I defend the lay back character and village lifestyle of the island, I've been against the developments at Nelly Bay and against the proposed development at Radical Bay. But Horseshoe Bay (HSB) is a different scenario, and I remind you Secret Seven, the visitors whom wiht the dollars support most of the small local businesses on the island always look at HSB as a place to enjoy recreational activities.
If you sincerely think that the place is noisy because of the Baron, you need to wake up, you get more noise everytime a plane takes off from the Townsville Airport and as it climbs passes over the island. Even worse when it comes to our beloved RAAF pilots taking off with their awesome but noisy machines.
I ask you Secret Seven to reconsider your position, see beyond it and drop the complaint which is hurting a lovely hard working couple who brought a star attraction to our island.

Sincerely yours

Alex Andreassen

November 21st 2007
Before you buy into the debate Alex, read the AAT decision in a previous story in MagneticTimes. It contradicts your guesses. And if you want to introduce material such as the "secret seven", at the very least you could demonstrate that you know who you are talking about. No onje else seems to know.
Bobbie and Jari Hryckow
March 27th 2008
Dear Friends of Magnetic Island,
Magnetic Island was the most tranquil and unspoilt place I have visited during my many journies around our fragile planet Earth. My husband Jari and I had the joy of working as the Doctor and Nurse on the Island between 2006 and 2008. We have also been regular visitors to your beautiful island over many years choosing to spend our holiday budget dollars flying to and staying at Magnetic Island.
We have been saddened over the past couple of years to find that our favorite Nth faceing sun drenched Horseshoe bay is now the base for a loud cacophany of recreational water craft. The last straw is the loud, shrill roar of the little biplane that takes off and flys all through the week and weekends during the holiday season when we visit in September.
I am writing because I saw it stated that the noise only effects a few local reidents and I think the island should be aware that tourists from the South, who in no small way contribute to the island economy, are also adversley effected by these ugly noisy changes to the island. We have no intention of returning to Magnetic Island until peace is restored. New Caledonia and the Isle of Pines for us next September.
We do not know the operators of the Red Baron and have no personal axe to grind. We have really loved and cherished the unique beauty of your Island.
Yours Sicerely,
Bobbie Hryckow

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