Cobden airstrip essential as a lifeline

Cobden's Belinda Steel wants Cobden airstrip's operations not be restricted after it played a vital role in getting her daughter to the Royal Children's Hospital when she was seriously injured.
Picture: Rob Gunstone
Cobden's Belinda Steel wants Cobden airstrip's operations not be restricted after it played a vital role in getting her daughter to the Royal Children's Hospital when she was seriously injured. Picture: Rob Gunstone

Belinda Steel knows the value of Cobden airstrip better than most.

When her daughter Rachael, then aged eight, suffered a serious head injury after being kicked by a horse in 2001, the air ambulance picked her up from the Cobden airstrip and rushed her to the Royal Children’s Hospital.

Without that quick trip to treatment in Melbourne that the Cobden airstrip’s close vicinity enabled, Rachael, now aged 25, would have likely died.

“The time-factor saved her life,” Ms Steel said.

Ms Steel was among the hundreds at the ‘Save Our Strip’ rally at Cobden airstrip on Saturday who do not want plans to erect turbines near the strip to restrict aircraft access.

Another was agricultural contractor Andrew Chivell who said his company supplied fertiliser and agricultural chemicals to spray aircraft that used the Cobden airstrip.

He did not want the operations of the spray aircraft to be impeded by the turbines.

Cobden Aero Club committee member Warren Ponting said the club had worked hard for many years to upgrade the strip in a bid to get it to Code One day and night level.

A $200,000 state government grant had enabled it to seal the airstrip and install a pilot-activated lighting system and the club had raised $90,000 for other improvements.

However, the restrictions the turbines would impose would block the bid to achieve Code One status.

Club secretary Bill Woodmason said it was not opposed to the wind farm, which involves 12 turbines, but wanted the four proposed for near the airstrip’s northern end to be moved further to the west.

Apart from support from the Cobden community, the protest rally also gained strong support from aviators from throughout the state.

Pilots flew in from as far away as Goolwa in South Australia, Kyneton and Coldstream to protest against any restrictions to the airstrip’s operations.

Among them were Tony and Yolanda Sayers of Coldstream who said they had flown to Cobden several times for a day out and enjoyed its tourist attractions.

They liked the Cobden airstrip because it was close to the town and they could ride their fold-up bicycles to attractions.

The rally was addressed by state opposition aviation spokesman Gordon Rich-Phillips and Member for Polwarth Richard Riordan, both of whom are supporting the club’s campaign.

Protestors were urged to sign a petition calling for the location of the four contentious turbines to be shifted.

The MPs said they would present the petition to state parliament early next year.

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