The Minister of Transport’s office is lobbing concerns stemming from a helicopter tour business back into the hands of complainants.
South Surrey-White Rock MP Dianne Watts contacted Minister Marc Garneau’s office after hearing numerous complaints from residents of noise from a helicopter offering eight-minute sightseeing rides in Semiahmoo Bay.
She was told such complaints are best dealt with at the local community level, and that not all noise issues can be resolved. The office also reiterated its main priority is safety and suggested residents contact Transport Canada if they have safety concerns.
“It just looks like everyone is pointing fingers,” said Watts. “I think it’s something where we all have to be good neighbours and make sure that we’re working together. Hopefully at some point all the parties can get together and figure out how this issue can be resolved.”
Garneau’s office also confirmed the operator, TRK Helicopters, has a valid air operator certificate and can continue flights as long as Semiahmoo First Nation grants permission to use its property as a landing pad.
Watts has reached out to the Semiahmoo band, but said she hasn’t received a response. Peace Arch News has also been unsuccessful in attempts to reach the band.
Last week, White Rock residents angered by the noise protested on Marine Drive holding placards that read “Say No to Helicopter Rides,” “Habitat Not Helicopter” and “Stop the Copter.”
Protesters also collected names for a petition against TRK’s helicopter tours, focusing on noise pollution, safety concerns and ecological impact.
Since TRK launched its tour service along the waterfront in July, numerous residents have complained of excessive and continuous noise. Tours operate Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays within the hours of noon to 7 p.m.
Civic officials have told PAN there’s little they can do. Surrey Coun. Barbara Steele said her city lacks jurisdiction to step in.
“While I feel for the residents, we’re kind of stuck in the middle of no-man’s land here,” she said in an interview earlier this month. “It’s very frustrating being in a position where you just can’t do anything, but we can’t do anything on First Nations land.”
White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin could not be reached by press time Thursday but in a previous interview had a similar message.
“It’s very annoying,” he said. “But it’s pretty hard for us to do anything about it.”
TRK has said it’s worked to reduce the noise impact on residents, flying farther out and higher, with a departure path that takes the helicopter farther south before it heads across the bay.