Work to trim or remove some trees in the areas at the north-western end of the new runway will soon begin.
This trimming and management of trees is required to ensure there are no obstacles on the ground or surrounding infrastructure that could be a safety hazard for aircraft using the new runway.
The clearances required for the new runway are regulated by CASA.
Sunshine Coast Airport Expansion Project Director Ross Ullman said vegetation management near runways was standard practice at airports across the world and has been occurring in the vicinity of the Sunshine Coast Airport since it opened in 1960.
“For this work, our tree trimming contractors will use a three-dimensional aerial laser survey technique, which will help manage, with precision, the trimming required,” Mr Ullman said.
“This will enable the contractor to minimise the extent of trimming to assist in ensuring we are taking an environmentally-responsible approach during this exercise.
“This three-dimensional picture enables us to identify with pin-point accuracy, those trees which need to be trimmed to meet CASA regulations, and by how much.”
With that knowledge in hand, ecologists have undertaken an on-the-ground survey to mark the trees needing to be trimmed and prepared a management plan for the work.
The process has been approved by the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Federal Department of Environment and Energy.
Mr Ullman said the trimming would use the combined skills and expertise of arborists and helicopter pilots.
“Arborists will scale the tree and a winch with a lifting tether will be lowered from the helicopter,” Mr Ullman said.
“Prior to trimming the tree, the arborist will fasten the tether to the branch.
“Once removed, the branches – which are less than 25cm in diameter – will be airlifted to a nearby council property, mulched and reused in the region’s parks and gardens.”
Mr Ullman said an ecologist had already undertaken surveys to ensure fauna would not be impacted and, prior to any trimming taking place, fauna spotters would be on site to carefully relocate any species that may be found.
“The project team has researched various methods to remove the branch offcuts in an environmentally-sensitive manner,” Mr Ullman said.
“By airlifting these branch offcuts out, they do not crash through and destroy the canopy.
“Consequently, we do not have any large machinery on the ground, so we are protecting the forest floor and understorey plants.
“Some selected branches may be carefully placed on the forest floor to create additional habitat for fauna.
“The approach we are taking has been recognised as leading edge, with other airports contacting council to see how this is being done, so they too can manage similar exercises in a more environmentally-sensitive manner.”
Sunshine Coast based company Arboricultural Contractors Australia will undertake the trimming work which is expected to take place for two weeks from October 21.
The project team also worked with residents and landowners on the south-eastern end of the new runway to undertake selective tree trimming and some tree removals to satisfy the CASA regulations. That work is now completed.
All trimming undertaken in public places and on private land will occur under strict management controls with public safety paramount.
On completion of the new runway the Sunshine Coast Airport will manage the maintenance of all near runway vegetation as part of their normal operations.
Council is in negotiations in relation to a limited number of properties required to accommodate the airport expansion project.
Where possible and appropriate, parts of the lands under consideration may be rehabilitated to contribute to strengthening the ecological corridor along the Maroochy River. This will be done in such a way so as not to compromise the OLS.