Noisy Singapore Air Force jets irk some Sanson residents
Manawatū residents fear howling pets and shaking houses could become the new normal if a defence deal is forged between Singapore and New Zealand.
The Singapore Air Force concluded a four-week flying exercise, involving six F16 fighter jets, at Ohakea Air Force Base on Monday.
But a proposed bill to turn the base into a permanent training arena for Singaporean military staff has raised concerns about the impact on residents in the nearby towns of Sanson and Bulls.
In February, the New Zealand Defence Force confirmed officials were in talks with the Government to set up a pilots’ training base at Ohakea.
Should Ohakea assume the role, then a Singapore Air Force F15 fighter would be based there.
About 200 Singapore military personnel and their families would be based in Manawatū, bringing about 500 people into the region.
But the plan has been met with resistance from some residents in neighbouring towns who say the noise from jets during the recent training exercise was “deafening”.
“Sometimes they’re so low you can see the pilot,” Sanson resident Bill Tooley said. “I’m only guessing but it wouldn’t be much more than 100 metres.”
Tooley said he lived down the road from a dog breeder, and one of his neighbours raised animals on a lifestyle block.
The jets often startled the animals, he said
In less than 30 minutes, Stuff viewed four separate aircraft flying over Tooley’s house.
“If you buy near an air base you can’t complain too much, but I’d like to see the flight paths changed occasionally so we could share [disruption from aircraft] with neighbouring villages,” Tooley said.
Defence Minister Mark Mitchell said Singapore had asked the Government to consider accommodating F15 fighter jet training at Ohakea long term.
Both countries were carrying out studies to enable everyone to make an informed decision on a proposal, Mitchell said.
“But we have similar values and it could be a good fit.”
Mitchell said the recent exercise was timely, and would provide valuable data about how basing F15s at Ohakea might work for New Zealand’s Air Force.
“The Government is committed to following a good process and is firmly committed to work closely on this with local communities through their mayors and councils. That engagement has already begun,” he said.
“There is a lot of work to be done before the possibility could come to fruition.”
A New Zealand Defence Force spokesperson said the public response about the F16s had been largely positive, but all noise complaints were taken “seriously”.
Given Sanson’s proximity to Ohakea, it was no surprise residents had experienced more noise, particularly when the F16 came in to land, the spokesperson said.
“This consideration has been incorporated in the flight profiles adopted as well as the training schedule.”
Manawatū District Council spokesman Paul Stein said the council had not received any noise complaints about the training exercise.