By Jessica Micallef
The Sunbury Residents Association is calling for community consultation on a state government plan to build a COVID-19 quarantine facility at Melbourne Airport.
Last week, Premier Daniel Andrews announced that the government was planning to build a quarantine facility outside of Melbourne’s CBD to combat the “hyper-infectious” UK strain of COVID-19.
He said the facility would replace a significant number of inner city hotels that are currently used for quarantine, and would largely be based on the Howard Springs quarantine facility in the Northern Territory.
Mr Andrews described Melbourne and Avalon airports as two “standout candidates” for the quarantine hub.
He said it was too early to say where a quarantine facility would be based at Melbourne Airport.
Sunbury Residents Association president Graham Williams said although the proposal was still in the early stages, he expected the government to undertake a full investigation with “proper planning processes.”
“The airport may not be within Sunbury space but it is still very close to us,” he said.
“We would like to see some open community consultation about what may happen.
“We would be interested in seeing the government’s proposal and we would be interested in having public forums to discuss it.”
Mr Williams said more information needed to be provided to community groups, residents and Hume council about the proposal.
“I think there is always a risk with something like this, but without the facts on the table, nobody can make an informed decision,” he said.
“Avalon Airport has the space, it’s semi-out the back of nowhere and it’s a long way away from anywhere.
“I don’t know where at Melbourne Airport they would be able to do that. I can’t think of a couple of acres that is open and ready to go but who knows what’s over the back of the airport.”
Hume planning and developing director Michael Sharp said the council would not be involved in any planning approval for the proposal, as airport land is under federal jurisdiction.
“The council supports the Victorian government’s efforts to contain the risk of spreading coronavirus,” he said.
“The impact of any quarantine centre being built at the airport would depend on where they choose to position the site.”
A Melbourne Airport spokesperson said a lot of work would need to be done before any facility could be built at the airport.
“While Melbourne Airport has a large land bank, significant work would need to be undertaken to assess whether a facility to the government’s standards could be developed on airport land, what approvals would be required from commonwealth and state governments, and in what timeframe any of this could be delivered.”
The Linfox Group, which operates Avalon Airport, has already approached the government about building a quarantine facility at the airport.