The rapid proliferation of helipads on Waiheke Island over the past decade has long been a concern for many residents. With more than 50 helipads, the island has roughly same number as Busan, South Korea, a city of 3.4 million people that ranks third in the world for helipad numbers according to international non-governmental organisation the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. Community lobby group Quiet Sky Waiheke was formed in 2021 to push for tighter regulation of helipads, greater consideration of the cumulative noise impact of helicopter operations in the consent process to approve new helipads and to address potential safety issues as Waiheke’s airspace grew more crowded.

It’s been a long and often frustrating effort, but Quiet Sky spokesman Kim Whitaker says the group is finally seeing the seeds of real progress. Auckland Council’s planning strategy team are signalling potential District Plan changes which will address the group’s concerns, maybe by as soon as the end of the year, a new Helicopter Practice and Guidance note was recently released by the council, and an amendment to the Civil Aviation Bill that would grant the Minister of Transport greater powers to regulate the effect of aviation activities on people is progressing through Parliament. “[This is] the fruit of a sustained campaign by Quiet Sky Waiheke, solid work by the Waiheke Local Board, councillor Pippa Coom and MP Chlöe Swarbrick and significant media coverage both locally and nationally,” Kim says.

One of Quiet Sky’s biggest disappointments has been how council planners have handled helipad resource consent applications. “They have failed to consult with the CAA over the safety and feasibility of flightpaths, failed to adequately consider noise effects beyond the limit that defines the activity status… and failed to consult with the Department of Conservation over impacts on marine reserves, biodiversity focus areas and scheduled significant ecological areas,” Kim says. • Paul Mitchell

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