Business

Helicopters over Herne Bay

Neighbours say a video showing churning seas as a helicopter flies towards Rod Duke’s proposed inner city beach helipad shows the dangers of allowing the project to go ahead.

Rod Duke, the multi-millionaire boss of retail chain Briscoes, is in the process of building a James Bond-style helipad on Sentinel beach, below one of his Auckland properties.

A High Court judgment last year sent the project back to Auckland Council for consenting, but Duke is still fighting for the helipad (the large black structure in the video) to go ahead.

Neighbours who filmed a test flight last week say swimmers or people in small boats could find themselves in difficulties as the helicopter came in. And if there was an accident, it could be catastrophic.

“The video confirms my suspicions that landing a helicopter on the shed is a precarious operation, says neighbour Don Mathieson, co-chair of the Herne Bay Residents Association, which is fighting the helipad plan.

“Anyone in a small craft or a kayak could be tipped over; someone swimming would find it very scary.”

The helipad is designed so the roof slides back to allow a helicopter to land on a concrete pad underneath. But Mathieson says the landing area is far too small, and there is no margin for error for beachgoers if something goes wrong.

“In the video it looks as if the helicopter is struggling to stay stable as it approaches the roof. If it came in to land, there is the possibility its rotors could touch another part of the shed." This could have potentially disastrous consequences for people underneath, Mathieson says.

Richard Brabant, lawyer for Rod Duke and his wife Patricia, says they had noise and aviation experts at the test flight looking at operational issues around the proposed helipad, including safety.

"Lay people have their own view and have a personal interest. But we get experts to give advice; experts who are used to dealing with helicopters and landings.

"We did the trial so these people can make an assessment."

The residents’ association is raising money to continue the legal battle against the helipad and is contesting Duke’s council consent applications.

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