Flying club’s fight

Flying club’s fight

SABC club president Shirley Harding sitting on the wing of her plane 'Poppit.' Photograph - Kelly Pilgrim-Byrne.

The Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale has rejected the Sport Aircraft Builders Club’s request to purchase the land the club is currently on.

At the same meeting, council also rejected the club’s request to approve the transfer of the management order to the club.

The decisions were made at the March 27 council meeting, which saw club president Shirley Harding’s eyes well with tears.

“I am very passionate about this club,” she said.

“40 years ago it was a degraded dairy farm which had been abandoned.

“It was then given to returning soldiers who walked away from it as the land was too wet to do anything but our members took over and have found a purpose for the land.”

Ms Harding said the land on Yangedi Road in Hopeland, where the club is, does not belong to the shire but is owned by the Crown.

“The land belongs to the crown which is administered by the Department of Land who have agreed that we should be allowed to buy it,” she said.

“The proceeds of the sale would go to the state government, not the shire as they don’t own it but they have the management order vested in them which means they are responsible for managing it.

“As our landlords they do nothing to manage it and that’s fine with us because we do it better ourselves.”

Ms Harding said the club has 108 hangars and is set on approximately 100 hectares.

“A large portion of it is bush forever zoned,” she said.

“This reduces the real estate value enormously but the irony of it is we planted those trees and to be told you can’t get rid of a tree when it is growing into the hangars is strange.”

Ms Harding said she is in the process of negotiating an extension of the lease with the shire.

“It must be preserved,” she said.

“This particular airfield is unique and it has been developed and maintained by a volunteer group of aircraft builders and that in itself is an interesting skill which we would like to pass on to the younger generation.

“We don’t want the skills members here have to disappear.”

Shire president John Erren said the shire is not retaining the land for commercial development and is prepared to enter into a long-term lease with the SABC to satisfy the clubs requirements and interest in the land.

“The SABC is a valued stakeholder and the Yangedi Airfield is our point of difference in comparison to many other airfields,” he said.

“It is a boutique airfield specific for recreation use and the shire is fortunate to have this wonderful facility in our backyard.”

Mr Erren said the shire agreed the SABC has been practically self-sufficient and has managed the airfield without assistance from the shire but it is committed to negotiating an extended lease term with the SABC to preserve the club’s interest in the land.

“Regarding the disposal of the reserve, local governments very rarely relinquish land for recreation or community purposes as by definition these land assets are community assets,” he said.

“The SABC can achieve their objectives via a long term lease of the land which the shire will support in good faith.”