John McCutcheon

Skydiving in legal tangle

THERE is no safe place for a skydiver to land on the South Grafton Airfield says a legal report prepared on behalf of the airfield managers.

The chairman of Clarence Valley Council's Section 355 committee that manages the airfield, Ken Dawes, told a council committee meeting last Tuesday there were three fundamental safety issues in the safety regulations governing parachuting operations.

  •  The drop zone must be a circle 400m across free of any hazards.
  •  The drop zone must be 600m from any populous area.
  •  The airfield runway and taxiway is considered a hazard because of the aircraft using it and must not be considered safe to land on.

Council has been investigating the risks of skydiving activities resuming at the airfield after they were suspended in July 2013.

Skydiving business Coffs City Skydivers has lobbied council to reopen the airfield since its closure.

Mr Dawes said the company had a one-year licence to operate from the airfield, which expired on June 30.

Mr Dawes commissioned Sydney barrister Darryl Warren to examine council's exposure to litigation in the event of a parachuting accident on the airfield.

His report was critical of a number of documents which council staff relied on to prepare its report to council.

These include a letter from Coffs City Skydivers, a consultants' report from Aviation Projects, aerial photographs and a letter from the Australian Parachute Federation and APF Operational Regulations covering drop zone requirements.

Mr Dawes hoped the councillors understood that the reasons behind his committee's objections to skydiving resuming at the airfield were motivated by legal and safety concerns.

The council officers' recommendation is for skydiving to resume at the airfield, subject to relevant development applications and subsequent consents. They also want Aviation Projects to supply documents backing up part of their advice and a quote for legal advice to address other items in their report.

The committee deferred making a decision on the matter to Tuesday's council meeting.



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