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Canberra Today 24°/26° | Tuesday, November 30, 2021 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Seaplane proposal to hurt more kids than are on the lake

THE implications of proposed seaplanes landing on the west basin of Lake Burley Griffin could affect more than wary sailors steering out of danger.

Canberra Yacht Club is the lake’s biggest recreational user and is objecting to new runway plans for two seaplane operators from Sydney and bases in Nowra, Moruya and Narooma.

“When a seaplane wants to come and land at whatever frequency, I can’t get 90 boats off the lake at the time they’re going to land,” Canberra Yacht Club commodore Sue Hart said.

“They say things like, ‘it’ll only take five minutes’, but for me to get boats off, and these are sailing in school holiday programs, for instance, and they’ve paid for the course, and I may be looking at doing this three or four times a day to clear them off the lake, get them back on the lake, so all this is just not feasible.”

One of three geographical basins is also home to a traditional dragon boat club, a triathlon club and the YMCA.

The yacht club, operating on that same area of the lake for more than 60 years, submitted an application to the National Capital Authority against the change to operations.

The move to share Lake Burley Griffin with Sydney Seaplanes and South Coast Seaplanes is set to jeopardise not-for-profit income of an established Canberra organisation and one of the ACT’s most historical sporting clubs to benefit interstate commercial operations.

“I can’t believe they will be bringing in a sufficient number of tourists to greatly impact the Canberra economy,” Ms Hart said.

But the bigger picture is not the yachting programs nor the club’s racing competitions, but for longstanding social good programs.

Money raised from the lessons of participants go towards a program aiding other children that either are disadvantaged or “at risk”.

“The school programs give them opportunity that they would never have,” Ms Hart said.

“UC has done studies for us on this. We can chart the improvement in these kids’ behaviour and the academic results from the programs that we offer that will be put at risk.”

Ms Hart fears the seaplanes arriving and departing from the west basin of the lake could cripple its business model.

Canberra reputedly has the largest club-based sail training organisations in the nation.

“The day of the demonstration (in December), they didn’t tell us when they were going to take off,” she said.

“Those photos you see with kids in small boats and the plane looming over is because they didn’t tell us.”

Both the NCA and the ACT government have made financial investments on the west basin site to ensure the yacht club can run national sanctioned sailability programs too.

Despite the commitment, Ms Hart has been disappointed with community consultation that has opened prior to the NCA making its final decision.

Questions posed to the NCA over either central or east basin being set aside for seaplanes have been met with further derision.

“We haven’t been given a reason for that,” Ms Hart said.

“We’re in the busiest section of the lake and clearly used a lot.

“It’s used by a number of organisations and clearly it’s central to our business operations.

“When I said central basin is nice and large, they said it has heritage value.

“Apparently the whole lake that was built at the same time doesn’t all have equal heritage.”

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Andrew Mathieson

Andrew Mathieson

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