Community's ‘affair' with RAAF

THE Evans Head community has had a long and amicable relationship with the Royal Australian Air Force.

While there are issues around changes to practices at the range, and concerns about the effects on wildlife, the communityappears keen to continue its love affair with the fast jets – based on the feedback received through the consultation process.

While ecologists are keen to see adequate environmental assessment, some even acknowledge the RAAF's contribution to the local ecology.

SCU's Dr Kristin denExter said although research there stopped in the early 1990s, the absence of people and dogs had helped to create a high biodiversity area.

Cabinet-maker Justin Crisp grew up in Evans Head and recalls a childhood of adventure.

When a wayward bomb blew up a road near his school in the early 1970s, everyone seemed to love it.

“I remember it as clear as anything, the whole town came out to look,” he laughed.

“Another time a Phantom jet fighter was forced to make an emergency landing. Again the whole town came out to watch it take off on a short runway.

“Everyone parked on the Woodburn Road could feel the heat of the engine.”

Apart from finding an unexploded 500-pound bomb underwater while working as a snorkelling instructor in the late 1980s, major incidents have been far and few between.

While still enjoying the thrill of the jets, Mr Crisp also has a deep appreciation of the ecology.

“You can't get into the range any more, but you can get an idea of the birdlife from the fringes,” he said.

“You don't see a lot of ground parrots and grass owls, but they're in there.

“We used to have a lot of terns 30 years ago – there's a little colony left on Jerusalem Creek and that will probably be affected.

“We appreciate the air force's attempts to continue a dialogue with us and I'm sure they will continue that.”

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