Students in Hamilton and Other Suburbs Experiencing Health and Well-being Issues From Chronic and Excessive Aircraft Noise

A recent health report has found that students attending schools in Hamilton, Ascot, New Farm, Bulimba, Balmoral, Hawthorne, and Hendra that are affected by chronic and excessive aircraft noise are experiencing negative academic results and struggling with their psychological well-being.

The World Health Organization recommends that daytime aircraft noise should not go beyond 45 decibels, and at night, it should stay below 40 decibels.

However, in Brisbane’s neighbourhoods like Bulimba, Hamilton, New Farm, and Tingalpa, the noise from planes often goes way above these levels, reaching 70-85 decibels.

Some areas have as many as 89 to 100 flights per day, with most of them being louder than 70 decibels, and some even louder than 90 decibels, as recorded by Airservices Australia’s noise monitors.

The health report, published by environmental scientist Dr Sean Foley in August 2023, sheds light on a pressing issue, its potential repercussions, and the divergent viewpoints regarding the proposed solutions.

Based on local surveys from 2021 and 2022, the study has identified a staggering 1.39 million Brisbane residents, equating to 54 per cent of the population, contended with aircraft noise in 2023. Among them, 242,000 individuals, or 9 per cent, bear the brunt of severe affliction.

Health Implications

The consequences of chronic exposure to aircraft noise extend beyond mere inconvenience. The report underscores a disconcerting array of health risks that affect the residents, ranging from sleep disturbance to cardiovascular disease. It highlights the disturbing link between aircraft noise and mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety.

The report also reveals the adverse impacts on children’s learning outcomes, with research showing that students attending schools under flight paths, including those in Bulimba, Balmoral, Hawthorne, Hamilton, Hendra, Ascot, and New Farm, are now experiencing negative academic results and struggling with their psychological well-being. The issue doesn’t stop at the school gate; it follows them home, compounding the challenges faced by these young residents.

The research estimates the health and social costs amounting to $9,000 per person, based on insights gleaned from a parallel study at Brussels Airport in Belgium. Potentially, the study says residents will face a potential healthcare cost of $18.9 billion by 2032.

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Proposed Solutions

In light of these findings, the Brisbane Flight Path Community Alliance (BFPCA) has called for the implementation of a curfew and flight cap at Brisbane Airport, akin to Sydney’s longstanding regulations. They assert that such measures would alleviate the suffering of affected residents.

However, Brisbane Airport Corporation maintains that roughly 70 per cent of noise complaints pertain to daytime flights. They argue that imposing a curfew may not provide the anticipated relief and could lead to unintended consequences, including diverted flights and increased prices. Instead, the airport is exploring alternative flight paths over Moreton Bay waters to minimize the noise impact on residential areas.

The Path Forward

Efforts to mitigate the adverse effects of airport noise are underway, with the airport authorities collaborating with Air Services Australia to devise strategies that reduce flight concentration over residential communities, including Hamilton. 

The aim is to increase flight paths over the waters of Moreton Bay, thereby reducing the number of flights over homes. Air Services Australia, recognizing the mental distress caused by aircraft noise, now offers free mental health counselling services to affected Brisbane residents

The consequences of airport noise are not limited to specific suburbs; they reverberate across a wide swath of greater Brisbane, encompassing areas like Hamilton. Airservices Australia confirmed that residents in 226 suburbs, extending far beyond the Brisbane Local Government Area, have registered complaints about aircraft noise. This extensive problem impacts communities as far away as Upper Brookfield, Samford Valley, and Redland Bay, all while communities in Hamilton continue to bear the burden of this issue.

The Economic Dimension

Beyond the immediate health concerns, the issue carries significant economic implications, affecting not only specific areas like Hamilton but the entire region. While BFPCA argues for a curfew and flight cap, Brisbane Airport Corporation contends that such measures could negatively impact Queensland’s economy, projecting a shrinkage of $2.8 billion by 2032. 

This estimate represents just 0.08 per cent of the state’s $360 billion economy, raising questions about the balance between economic growth and the well-being of affected communities.

Published 5-Jan-2024