The only commercial airstrip between Warrnambool and Geelong will be forced to close if a wind farm next to the site goes ahead, opponents to the plan fear.
Plans for the Naroghid wind farm, located directly north of the Cobden airport, are being considered by the state Planning Minister.
The project has been on the drawing board for more than a decade and was taken over by Alinta Energy earlier this year. The energy giant plans to build 12 turbines measuring 180 metres and costing up to $100 million.
Cobden Aero Club member Duncan Morris said if the development went ahead in its current form, it could ultimately lead to the strip’s closure.
He said turbines would be located from 1.4 nautical miles, or about 2.5 kilometres, from the runway.
“If I took off in my aircraft to the north, I would hit that tower about three-quarters of the way up it 40 seconds after take-off, that’s how close it is,” he said.
Mr Morris said aircraft could me maneuvered around the turbines, but “maneuvering so close to the ground is dangerous”.
The Cobden airport is the only one of its kind in Corangamite Shire and Mr Morris said it covered a wide area between Warrnambool, Geelong and Ballarat. It services the region’s tourism and agriculture industries and is used by the air ambulance, in particular its fixed-wing aircraft for medical transfers and emergencies, as well as recreational flying.
The community has a long-term vision for the airport, including a new terminal and command centre. A funding application for $400,000 has been lodged with the state government and about $40,000 already raised by the community for the development.
Mr Morris said other significant improvements had been made to the site over time.
“Given that the state government contributed significantly to upgrade the strip and seal it, it seems ridiculous that the next state government would support something that will effectively destroy it,” he said.
Mr Morris said when the wind farm was previously on the table, airport users had suggested a one kilometre corridor either side of the runway to solve the issue.
“In 2005 they had four turbines in that corridor and wouldn’t even discuss the idea,” he said. “In the revised plan there’s at least six in that corridor, there’s a whole cluster of them.”
A number of airport user groups are planning to make submissions on the plan.
Four years ago, the state’s planning tribunal refused to extend a permit for the wind farm after noting a two-kilometre setback rule in place at the time, which allowed residents within that zone to veto wind farms.
By 2015, however, the state government amended that rule, restricting the veto zone to one kilometre. The closest non-stakeholder home to the Naroghid turbines is now 1006 metres, according to the Alinta proposal.
Submissions to the plan close on December 22.