Auckland Airport under fire over flight paths

FULL HOUSE: A public meeting on the flight path trials was held at Royal Oak Baptist Church in Auckland.
FULL HOUSE: A public meeting on the flight path trials was held at Royal Oak Baptist Church in Auckland.

Auckland residents fighting what they say are big increases in aircraft noise above their neighbourhoods have turned out in force to try and make sure their views are heard.

More than 200 central Auckland residents - from Mt Eden, Epsom, Royal Oak, One Tree Hill, Onehunga, Mangere Bridge and Remuera - packed out a community hall last night to hear from those behind a flight-path trial.

The residents say the trial has transformed their quiet streets into something else entirely.

The year-long SMART trial began last November and is being run by the Auckland Airport, Airways New Zealand and Air New Zealand with the aim of reducing fuel use and carbon emissions.

It has been the subject of many complaints, but the airport maintains there has been little discernible impact on noise levels - a message its spokespeople reiterated last night.

The airport's aeronautical operations manager, Judy Nicholl, said the trials had been conducted within its parameters of 10 flights a day, with only three airlines participating between 7am and 10pm.

However, many residents said their quality of life had been harmed by louder plane noise.

They turned out in force last night to share their experiences.

Those behind the trial would have left the meeting in no doubt as to the depth of feeling in the community, said Epsom resident Lorraine Clarke, who has been at the forefront of protests.

"I'm very happy with how it went. When you get a whole lot of people together who don't look like loop heads it is very hard to ignore."

The airport has commissioned acoustics firm Marshall Day to monitor noise and assess complaints.

It has put a $30,000 noise monitor into one Epsom property and is about to set up two more.

Marshall Day acoustician Chris Day told the crowd its monitoring showed there was little difference between the new trial flight paths and those which had been in operation for nearly 15 years.

"It is slightly louder, but one to two decibels is not detectable and three to four only just perceptible."

However, complainants were not buying the airport's explanations.

One Buckley Rd resident who spoke from the floor said she had lived in the Epsom street for decades.

An increase in flight activity in the last year had affected her mental health, she said.

"During the last summer I noticed an extraordinary increase in the number of flights and at a lower altitude above my house.

"On some occasions they were very, very low over my house, I thought they were going to crash in my garden.

"I wish there was a computer game so I could shoot them down."

Her sentiments were echoed many times throughout the meeting.

Others also expressed dismay at the way the trial had been run, the lack of sound monitoring along the trial route and poor communication with residents before and since the trial began.

Epsom resident Toni Walker said: "We are residents, not experts. The onus should be on you to prove you can run your business without impacting our lives."

Remuera resident Kevin Kenay said: "It's all about airline profits but what we have got here is aural pollution. This is meant to be a liveable city, we are blessed with an airport next to an ocean, they can do their fiddling over the water.

"We need 100 monitors, that way we will know who is talking crap and who isn't."

Nicholl said the communication lines were now fully open.

"We appreciate the opportunity to engage and take away the feedback.

"It's not a simple trial. When things get that technically involved it takes a while to analyse."

The trial will cease next month and the results will be reviewed in February.