Allan Rees, spokesperson for the No Aircraft Noise (NAN) party, believes that the site south of Wilton must be assessed as a replacement airport for Sydney. “This is the only way to end the growing noise nightmare for 100,000 people,” he said on May 9.
NAN has campaigned for decades to get the Sydney airport moved out of the city on the grounds of its detrimental health and environmental impacts.
NAN says the small town of Wilton, about 75 kilometres south-west of Sydney and a proposed site for an airport, would need to be consulted and persuaded of the benefits. These include its proximity to Sydney and Wollongong, and its ability to be linked into the existing rail network without the need for a very fast train.
“Moving Sydney airport to Wilton would give an efficient airport able to take the next 50 years of aviation growth,” he told Green Left Weekly. “It can be linked into the CityRail network by electrifying the railway from Campbelltown. Wollongong can be connected by completing the partly built Maldon Dombarton railway.
“Wilton was assessed as suitable for a major second airport in 1985, along with Badgerys Creek. The Hawke Labor government chose Badgerys, but built a third runway at Mascot after lobbying from the airlines and the Greiner NSW Liberal government.”
The Sydney Aviation Capacity Study — the latest NSW-federal study — recommends increasing the flights at Sydney Airport up to the legislated limit of 80 flights an hour for 17 hours a day. It admits that increasing flights at Mascot will end noise sharing and increase the concentration of flights over suburbs such as Marrickville, Leichhardt and Hunters Hill, north of the airport.
Rees said: “These suburbs are supposed to get only 17% of flights under the Long Term Operating Plan brought in by the Howard government and continued under Labor. Instead it is rarely under 30% and includes the biggest noisiest jets using the long runway.”
The proposed airport site is five kilometres south of Wilton. NAN said it is near the main southern railway and the Hume Highway and can be linked into the suburban train network.
Rees said almost all noise would be over unpopulated areas, much of it water catchment. All of Sydney’s water has been filtered since the Giardia and Cryptosporidium crisis 12 years ago.
Rees said noise and land use guidelines for an airport would have to be applied in Wilton, which has not happened in any meaningful way in Sydney.
“The 1985 study found that only a few hundred people would be affected by noise from an airport near Wilton. Those affected would have to be compensated in accord with the Australian Standards, unlike what has happened around Mascot.
“It’s not possible to achieve the Australian Standards with the existing airport whose latest plans show that homes out to Hunters Hill should be insulated and that nobody should be living with the level of noise between Leichhardt and the airport, even with insulation.”
NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell and Sydney airport boss Max Moore-Wilton are adamant there is no need for more airport capacity in Sydney.
Rees suspects that as Sydney airport becomes choked, regional airlines will use Bankstown and Richmond airports. O’Farrell also wants a fast train to Canberra where Sydney’s second airport could be built.
Qantas, originally against a new airport, is now in favour of one — but hasn’t said whether it prefers Badgerys or Wilton. “It is probable that they want space for Jetstar expansion into the Asian budget airline market,” said Rees.
The Tourism and Transport Forum also supports a second airport citing population pressures. Rees says that Berlin and Athens, both with populations over 3 million, operate one airport outside the city, so Sydney could do so with a population of 4 million.
Federal transport minister Anthony Albanese has presided over three major reports and has now commissioned a Scoping Study for Wilton and an Environmental Impact Study. This will allow him to boast at the next federal election of his progress, but blame opposition leader Tony Abbott later on, Rees said. Albanese has also approved Sydney Airports Master Plan allowing expansion up to 2029.
“Doing nothing will allow the most profit for the monopoly owners of Sydney Airport, as well as making it more likely that regional airlines will end up at Bankstown and Richmond. Doing nothing also brings more pressure to lift the curfew at Mascot.”
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