Aussie resident takes national honours after complaining ‘more than 21,000 times’ about aircraft noise in 2023

Sean Smith
The Nightly
3 Min Read
The unidentified complainant’s prolific record is revealed in numbers provided to a Senate inquiry looking into the impact of noise from aircraft on cities and regional centres.
The unidentified complainant’s prolific record is revealed in numbers provided to a Senate inquiry looking into the impact of noise from aircraft on cities and regional centres. Credit: Geoffrey Thomas/TheWest

A single Perth resident is said to have complained more than 21,000 times about noise from overflying aircraft last year, accounting for nearly half of all complaints in Australia.

The unidentified complainant’s prolific record is revealed in numbers provided to a Senate inquiry looking into the impact of noise from aircraft on cities and regional centres.

The data shows that the number of people complaining about aircraft noise has actually fallen since 2019, but the number of complaints has almost tripled because those complaining are doing so repeatedly.

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A submission to the Senate inquiry by Airservices Australia, the Federal Government organisation that manages the country’s skies, reveals that complaints doubled to 51,589 in 2023.

However, more than 30,000 of these were made by just five people, led by the Perth complainant who filed 21,716 complaints, or an average of 60 a day - one for every seven aircraft leaving or arriving in the transport hub.

As a comparison, the next biggest complainant, in Brisbane, fired off 4071.

Airservices declined to disclose the identity of the Perth complainant or whether they were also filing on behalf of others.

Its monitoring systems collect noise and flight path data, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from airports in Perth, Brisbane, Cairns, Canberra, Gold Coast, Sydney and Melbourne.

The onus is on both airports and airlines to try and minimise noise, with the former required to use aircraft that abide with noise standards and the latter obliged to engage with local communities on how they are mitigating the disruption.

Perth complaints about aircraft noise escalated with the rise in fly-in fly-out traffic on the back of the mining boom nearly 20 years ago and changes to flight paths.

The number of flights in and out of Perth nearly doubled between 2005 and 2013, from 86,664 to 151,331. Reduced construction activity in the resources sector and bigger aircraft reduced flight numbers to 149,670 in the 2013-14 financial year, with 139,861 recorded last year.

However, data collated for Airservices’ website appears to confirm the national trends flagged in its submission, with fewer people making more complaints.

For example, 490 people filed complaints against Perth Airport for the July to September period in 2014. Last year, there were just 53 complainants for the same period.

One anonymous submission to the inquiry spoke about the mental toll inflicted on those under busy flight paths by “frequent flyer aviation policymakers”.

“These are people who do not suffer the consequences of their policies, who have never lived under a busy flight path, who do not know the extreme distress and hurt caused, and who do not acknowledge the research on the harms caused by aircraft noise,” the submission said.

“If I had a side business that mowed lawns at midnight, followed with chainsaw tree lopping at 2am, and leaf blowing at 3am and then used a wood chipper at 4am, played loud rap music to relax at 5am and continued this behaviour every night so as to provide a valuable service to my paying clients, I would be be the subject of newspaper articles and quickly prosecuted.

“But if an airline does effectively the same thing to 10,000 residents, it is suddenly unremarkable, acceptable and even applauded as providing much needed convenience and ‘connectivity’ to its clients.”

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