Quarterly Report: January-March 2020

  1. Introduction
  2. Overview
  3. Complaint handling
  4. Consultation and Information Provision
  5. Attachment 1 - Complaint Statistics
  6. Attachment 2 - Outstanding ANO recommendations

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Introduction

This report includes complaint statistics and a summary of Aircraft Noise Ombudsman (ANO) activities during the January – March 2020 quarter. It is structured around the three key functions of the ANO, these being the review and monitoring of Airservices Australia's and the Department of Defence's:

  1. complaint handling
  2. community consultation processes
  3. provision of information about aircraft noise.

Overview

2.1 From the start of January to the end of March 2020, the ANO received a total of 24 complaints, three of which related to Defence's management of military aircraft noise issues and 20 related to Airservices' management of civilian aircraft noise issues. The final complaint did not include enough information to enable assignment to either agency and did not progress to review. Attachment 1 provides detailed complaint statistics for the quarter.
2.2 The ANO completed two draft reports this quarter – the Investigation into complaints about the introduction of new flight paths in Sunshine Coast report and the Review of Airservices Australia's systems for community engagement - Final Report. Airservices provided its responses to both reports on 9 April 2020 and these are being considered before the reports are finalised and sent to the Board. Both reports are expected to be finalised this quarter.
2.3 The ANO has closed the three remaining outstanding recommendations from the Investigation into complaints about the introduction of new flight paths in Hobart (April 2018).
2.4 Defence has provided its remediation action plan to respond to the nine recommendations from the Compliance Audit of Australian Super Hornet Flying Operations at RAAF Base Amberley (October 2019). Although no recommendations are yet closed, Defence has reported making progress on many aspects of its action plan.
2.5 In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and Government guidance on actions to help minimise the spread, the ANO office has made appropriate arrangements for all staff to work from home. The office continues to operate at full capacity, with the only limitation being that calls to the office will go to voice message and be responded to later, rather than taken live.

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Complaint handling

3.1

During the quarter, the ANO received 24 new complaints, three of which related to Defence's aircraft noise management and 20 related to Airservices' aircraft noise management. The remaining case was not reviewed and did not include enough information to assign to an agency. The graph below shows that this is in line with the usual number of complaints received by the ANO office in a quarter.

3.2

Of the 24 complaints received this quarter, four related to the Perth Airport, three each related to Brisbane and Melbourne, two from Sunshine Coast and four were unidentified. We are aware that Perth Airport had its main runway closed for maintenance for an extended period through March. The remaining eight complaints were from six different civilian airports and two different Defence bases. The graph over the page shows the geographic spread of complaints by airport. The complaints with an 'unidentified - civil' airport include complaints about Airservices' consultations around its Draft Flight Path Design Principles, where no particular airport is relevant. The airports associated with the 'no agency assigned' and the 'unidentified – Defence' complaints could not be determined on the basis of the information provided and these complaints did not progress.

3.3 Twenty-two complaints were closed during the quarter, of which eleven were reviewed in detail and ten were referred back to the relevant agency for a direct response. The final one was the same one to which an agency could not be attributed and therefore it was out of charter at this point.
3.4 Defence has provided its remediation action plan to respond to the nine recommendations from the Compliance Audit of Australian Super Hornet Flying Operations at RAAF Base Amberley (October 2019). Although no recommendations are yet closed, Defence has reported making progress on many aspects of its action plan.
3.5 At 1 April 2020, 342 complaints remain open. This reflects the large volume of complaints relating to the Sunshine Coast matter (299). These complaints will remain open until the multiple complaints investigation report is considered by the Airservices Board and a response can be provided to complainants.
3.6 Complaint statistics for the quarter are summarised at Attachment 1.

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Consultation and Information Provision

Hobart Review

4.1 Airservices has presented additional information to demonstrate its actions to address the three recommendations that were outstanding from the ANO's Investigation into complaints about the introduction of new flight paths in Hobart (April 2018). The ANO has considered this information and is now satisfied that the three recommendations can now be closed. A summary of the three closed recommendations is at
4.2 A significant number of complaints about Airservices' environmental impact assessment and consultation regarding the introduction of new flight paths in 2018/19 remain open and under review.

Compliance Audit of Defence's Super Hornet Operations at Amberley

4.3 The ANO completed a comprehensive audit of Defence's compliance with the Conditions of Approval for its Australian Super Hornet Flying Operations at RAAF Base Amberley and submitted a report to the Chief of Air Force in late October 2019.
4.4 Defence has made the necessary submissions to the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment including its remediation action plan to address the recommendations made by the ANO. It has also commenced actions in line with this plan.
4.5 A summary of the nine recommendations is also at Attachment 2.

Sunshine Coast Review

4.6 The ANO expects to finalise its report on the Investigation into complaints about the introduction of new flight paths in Sunshine Coast report this quarter for presentation to the Board.

Systemic Review of Airservices' community engagement systems

4.7 The ANO expects to finalise its report on the Review of Airservices Australia's systems for community engagement this quarter for presentation to the Board.

Airservices' consultation on its draft Flight Path Design Principles

4.8 The ANO participated in Airservices' national stakeholder consultation on draft Flight Path Design Principles (FPDP) during the quarter. The ANO attended an industry stakeholder panel and two public workshops as observers and also made a written submission to the process.
4.9 The ANO has received some complaints from members of the community about Airservices' community engagement process in relation to the draft FPDP.

 

Kieran Pehm
Aircraft Noise Ombudsman

28 April 2020

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Last Updated: May 20, 2020