The Northland rescue helicopter's Kensington base should not be moved to Onerahi Airport, according to an airport noise management advocate in the coastal community.
Carole Doherty said it was simply a case of transferring noise management issues from one residential area to another.
"Yes, we all benefit from the emergency rescue helicopters. They're an amazing service and essential, and yes they save lives," said Doherty, a member of the original Whangārei District Council Onerahi Airport noise management subcommittee.
"But they shouldn't be in a residential area."
The district council was asked for comment, but did not respond to Doherty's concerns.
Community opposition arose in 2014 when Northland Emergency Services Trust (Nest) last looked seriously at shifting its helicopter base to the airport, in the end deciding not to do so at that time.
The district council on November 12 voted at an extraordinary meeting to support the relocation of the rescue helicopter base from Kensington to the council's airport land and hangar.
Growing noise complaints from Kensington residents, ahead of the trust's lease on the site expiring in July 2023, are forcing the base out of its central location. The trust chose Onerahi as its best shift option, ahead of a second undisclosed location, which the council said had Civil Aviation Authority compliance issues.
More than 1000 helicopter flights will probably soon be heading in and out of Onerahi Airport annually, with the new emergency rescue helicopter base in place before June.
Doherty said she was shocked the council had not been in touch - with those in the community who had been involved in jointly working through previous airport helicopter noise management issues - ahead of the November 12 meeting and news of the shift filtering out to the public.
She said the first she had known about the new shift plan was via media contact.
The council was also asked for comment on the community notification, but did not respond.
Doherty has been a long-time member of the currently in-abeyance council airport noise management sub-committee.
She said worried Onerahi residents instantly started calling her regarding their concerns around the move, as soon as news filtered out through the media it was on the horizon.
The council airport noise management subcommittee was set up about 2004, fading for a while after that.
It was involved when about 100 residents from mainly Church and Handforth Sts, adjacent to the airport, made written submissions to the council in late 2004 about airport noise limits during district plan updating. The submissions were principally about noise from helicopter hovering and engine testing of planes.
The council airport noise management subcommittee was resurrected in 2014, when Nest was looking to shift its base there.
Doherty said the committee had gone into abeyance since then, but never been formally disbanded.
The council decided on November 12 to re-establish the airport noise committee as part of its formal rescue helicopter base shift support. Membership of the original committee included a district councillor, community members, Nest and airport staff.
The council will next sign a memorandum of understanding with Nest and work on a lease agreement ahead of the relocation before May 2023.
Doherty said there had generally not been major noise management issues at the airport for several years – after the then WDC airport noise management subcommittee's successful efforts.
She said some noise was to be expected from the airport, but she took particular issue with helicopter hover training. She said this had been unexpectedly happening at the airport recently, including at midnight for about 40 minutes.
This noise had recently made it impossible for students at St Stephen's church homework class to hear one another.
She said people had weddings and funerals at the Church St facility, which is alongside the airport.
"These are lifetime events, it [helicopter noise] would ruin a wedding," Doherty said.