Located just five (5) miles to the south of Drouin in the Victorian Latrobe Valley is one of Australia’s hidden aviation gems, the Drouin South Airfield. The privately owned airfield has been in operation for almost 40 years serving local aircraft owners and pilots, whilst also providing an invaluable base of operations for firefighting, police and aero-medical air assets during times of emergency. With a grass runway of 1,200m length, the airfield is home to the Drouin Aviation Club, comprising a membership of approximately 30 active pilots who fly a broad cross section of recreational and general aviation aircraft types.
At an emergency meeting of members this week, the club management discussed correspondence received from Council advising of an intention to close down the airfield operations, citing noise complaints by neighboring property owners. The complaints appear to have been triggered by the Council seeking the airfield owner to submit a development application for portable buildings that had been onsite for a lengthy period. Whilst there is no legal requirement for such applications to be made, the owners of the airfield complied with Council’s request seeking to demonstrate a strong and friendly relationship. It is understood that the noise complaints have been received by persons who have recently purchased property in close proximity to the airfield.
President of the Drouin Aviation Club Mr Michael Watson, “The club is concerned for the future of the airfield and would hate to see the community disadvantaged by a closure, especially given that important role the airfield plays in providing a base of operation to Fire, Police and Air Ambulance air assets during times of emergency. We are seeking an opportunity to meet with Council to better understand their perceived issues and challenges, seeking a positive outcome that will ensure the airfield can continue to provide benefit for years to come.”
“On behalf of the club, I have sought the assistance of AOPA Australia, who have considerable experience in local airport matters. Together with AOPA Australia will be seeking a meeting with the Mayor and Council General management to resolve any concerns.”
AOPA Australia Director Dr David Hooke; “The Drouin South Airfield is low-utilisation and does not see any significant use during weekdays, with the majority of flying taking place on weekends. As both a member of the club and owner of a hangar at the facility, I think its important for the local community to understand the value of the facilities to the wellbeing and recreation of local aviators. This facility is no different to local sporting facilities, parks and recreation spaces that are all designed to improve the livability of the region”.
Benjamin Morgan, Executive Director AOPA Australia; “The Drouin Aviation Club is a valued member of the association and we will be working together, seeking to protect the future of the airfield, which plays an important role for both the broader local community and our aviation industry participants. I am hopeful that a successful outcome can be achieved”.
“The situation also highlights the importance and value of membership to the association, which during times such as this can be an invaluable resource to helping achieve a succesful resolution. I encourage all of our aircraft owner and pilot community to pledge their support and become a member: www.aopa.com.au/membership“.