‘I lie awake crying’: The plane noise driving thousands mad

 

Residents on the frontline of aircraft noise say they are so sleep-deprived since the new Brisbane runway opened that they are often literally reduced to tears.

Teneriffe's Karen Brown said she went from living in a "blissfully quiet'' hilltop home to being forced to wear imported, state-of-the-art earplugs at night.

Even then, she sometimes lay awake with a pillow over her head crying.

"Because I'm in a Queenslander you can't insulate it like brick houses,'' she said.

"Some people can just go inside when a plane goes overhead. I can't even hear people on the phone inside my house unless I put on headphones.''

Ms Brown said aircraft overflew at about 300m, often generating noise from 75 to 85 decibels according to a sound measuring app she used.

About 100 planes a day took off or landed over her house, starting at 6am.

"It's worst on cloudy days. It's not a little impact, it's so massive sometimes I get headaches.

"When I wake up in the morning I'm so tired I often fall back asleep later on. No-one really understands how bad it is.''

Ms Brown said she looked at Brisbane Airport Corporation's (BAC) flight path tool before the new runway opened last year and it indicated there would be minimal impact.

She said she was not wealthy and could not afford to move.

Bulimba resident Majid Miri, a data analysis expert, also studied the flight path tool which he said showed the home he bought about four years ago would face little impact.

Instead, he now has to deal with about 100 flights a day.

"When I questioned BAC they said the flight path tool didn't include turbo props,'' Mr Miri said.

"What people are really p#@*ed off about is these figures were buried. We think the community was tricked.''

 

New Farm residents Sue Fuller, Paul Ewart, Fred Ropp, Brownwyn Wright and Geoffrey Warrener at a park under one of the new flight paths. They say noise is now unbearable but BAC’s flightpath tool indicated the suburb would not be affected. Picture: Glenn Hunt/The Australian
New Farm residents Sue Fuller, Paul Ewart, Fred Ropp, Brownwyn Wright and Geoffrey Warrener at a park under one of the new flight paths. They say noise is now unbearable but BAC’s flightpath tool indicated the suburb would not be affected. Picture: Glenn Hunt/The Australian

BAC insisted it consulted thoroughly with the community and was open about noise impacts.

It said some suburbs had actually experienced less noise since the new runway opened in July but conceded some, such as New Farm, were experiencing more noise.

More than 3000 people have complained about noise since the second runway opened, some up to a dozen times a day since lockdown ended.

But residents claimed the true number was much higher and said they were being stonewalled with generic responses.

The Aircraft Noise Ombudsman (ANO) will release its complaints figures when it hands down a report into the issue later this year.

Lobby group Brisbane Flight Path Community Alliance (BFPCA) said the ANO told complainants yesterday that it had received "unprecedented demand for its services'' since the new flight paths began.

BFPCA estimated at least 24 suburbs were being significantly affected by noise.

 

Make a submission to the Ombudsmanhere

 

BAC handled complaints during the runway public consultation and construction phase.

While it still deals with the public, Airservices Australia (ASA) now has formal responsibility for complaints.

BFPCA chair, David Diamond, claimed ASA counted multiple complaints from the same person as one complaint, so the true number was much higher than authorities were admitting.

 

A post from a resident in the affected flightpath about her complaints experience.
A post from a resident in the affected flightpath about her complaints experience.

The change was triggered some years ago after a Tingalpa resident lodged more than 1000 complaints - one new complaint every time a plane flew over his house.

"(ASA) request that you do not complain about multiple events of noise because they are not counted,'' Mr Diamond said.

"The fact that they are not counted not only artificially lowers the stats but, importantly, people are less likely to submit anther complaint because they are told not to.

"It is also important to remember every complaint covers three to five people in an impacted household.''

ASA confirmed it had received 1056 individual complainants from July until December, across 98 suburbs.

Seven suburbs recorded 50 or more complainants: Balmoral; New Farm; Hawthorne; Bulimba; Hamilton; Ascot; Hendra.

 

View the Aircraft In Your Neighbourhood interactive portal

View the ASA complaints management process

 

"Airservices' complaints management approach is focused on the complainant and their concerns, not the total number of complaints an individual may make,'' an ASA spokesman said.

"This provides us with an understanding of where in the community people are experiencing aircraft noise, how many people are being impacted, and what the issues are that they are concerned about.

"Every complaint is recorded in the system against the complainant who made it.

"Wherever possible, the Airservices Noise Complaints and Information Service Team provide detailed written responses to queries and complaints submitted particular to the individual complainant issues and locale.''

 

Brisbane Airport’s new runway taking shape during construction.
Brisbane Airport’s new runway taking shape during construction.

BAC said it treated each complaint separately and denied claims from BFPCA members that it was not interested in dealing with the issue.

"Since runway opening on July 12, BAC has received 2200 submissions from 1100 people, averaging two submissions per person,'' a spokeswoman said.

"For the 2021 calendar year, BAC has received 470 submissions from 150 people, averaging at around three submissions per person.''

Some people have been lodging complaints a dozen times a day in recent months, since lockdown ended and plane traffic increased.

But she said not all submissions were complaints. Many were questions or even compliments about noise dropping since the runway opened.

 

 

Mr Diamond said people wanting to complain were "frequently passed between Airservices, BAC and CASA (the Civil Aviation Administration)''.

"This cyclical buck passing, with incomplete information, has the effect of wearing down

community members, frustrating their attempts to understand what is occurring, develop an

informed opinion and take action,'' he said.

"Crucially, there is no avenue for affected community members to have their complaints

properly considered as there is no clear or enforceable dispute resolution process.

"While the Aircraft Noise Ombudsman provides a pathway to better procedural fairness, the absence of any legislative penalties or powers for the ANO mean that many serious, genuine and fair community grievances can remain unresolved.''

 

 

The BAC spokeswoman said it dealt with each complainant individually, often over the phone or on videolinks.

"BAC's community engagement team provides personalised and comprehensive responses,'' she said.

"Individuals are also offered the opportunity to have a briefing with a member of the community engagement team as well as one of our technical experts - either in person, over the phone, or online - to discuss their concerns.

"There is no attempt to frustrate efforts. We try to answer questions but we also encourage people to go to Airservices Australia to have their complaint formally recorded, as they are the regulatory body responsible for managing complaints and inquiries on aircraft noise and operations in Australia.''

Originally published as 'I lie awake crying': Hear the plane noise driving thousands mad


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