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Fears of bird strikes: Dunedin airport opposes landfill

Further efforts to keep birds from flocking to a proposed landfill near Dunedin airport may not be enough to allay fears of bird strikes on planes, the airport has warned.

Allowing the planned landfill to be installed just 4.5 km away would be a fundamental flaw that could not be overcome with proper management, the airport said in its recently released submission on the controversial Smooth Hill landfill proposal.

“Too close is just too close … once bird populations are established, management will not eradicate them.”

The 4.5 km separation was 2 km closer than the 6.5 km buffer zone used in a site selection process in 1992 and 8.5 km closer than the 13 km buffer zone recommended by the international aviation guidelines.

There was already a relatively high risk of bird strike at Dunedin, the airport said.

“An aircraft colliding with a single bird has the potential to cause significant damage.

“Large, high-flying birds like black-backed gulls present the highest risk and the collision is potentially catastrophic.”

The airport’s submission indicated that “gradual mitigations” had been proposed and that it characterized this as a concession of increased risk.

The airport has not accepted that an increased risk to its operation is acceptable.

He also suggested that the planned closure of the Green Island landfill would mean that a large colony of black-backed gulls would lose their main food source and seek another.

The airport’s submission was one of 283 received by Otago Regional Council regarding Dunedin City Council’s proposal.

Two supported the proposal, nine were neutral and the vast majority opposed it.

The New Zealand Airline Pilots Association has raised similar concerns at the airport.

The landfill could pose unnecessary danger to the traveling public, the association said.

“Any land use that has the potential to attract birds near the airport should be investigated to determine the likelihood of bird strikes on aircraft using the airport.”

Dunedin airport presented a bird risk above the national average.

Deterrence methods, including shooting and poisoning, could prevent birds from nesting in the landfill, but such measures were unlikely to be completely successful in keeping them away.

Te Runanga o Otakou supported the city council’s candidacy and said mana whenua was involved in the site selection process.

Trucking the waste to landfills outside of Dunedin or the region was unacceptable to mana whenua. Thirty-two possible locations for a new landfill were assessed based on landform, ecology, economic viability and social factors, and the Smooth Hill site was found to be the most suitable, the runanga.

Saddle Hill Community Council has raised concerns about the quality of city council community consultation.

It would also be cruel to attract birds to a site near the airport and then kill them, the board said.

Some authors were concerned about possible pollution of waterways near the proposed landfill.

The Brighton Surf Life Saving Club has said it is unacceptable that the area’s beach and coves are exposed to environmental problems.

Members of Otokia Creek and the Marsh Habitat Trust said they feared the effects of wetland reclamation were underestimated and the risk of leachate was not properly assessed.

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