Viewpoint: Move the airport out of Sydney


Karen Fletcher and Max Lane

Move the airport out of Sydney

Residents of Sydney's inner south-west are rightly angry about the horrendous levels of noise and air pollution which have accompanied the opening of the third runway at Kingsford Smith Airport. The third runway was built with total disregard for clearly expressed resident opposition. In addition, residents in the suburbs to the east and west of KSA are worried that they will once again be affected if the east-west runway is reopened, as opportunistically promised by the Liberals. Most residents of Sydney stand to suffer if big business succeeds in its plans to massively increase air traffic over the city in the next four years. Some ALP politicians have been campaigning to fast-track a second airport at Badgerys Creek in Sydney's western suburbs. But the area west of Fairfield which backs onto Badgerys Creek is the site of Sydney's fastest-growing residential development. Some 30,000 new homes are being built in Hinchinbrook, Cecil Hills and Hoxton Park, just to the east of Badgerys Creek. It makes no sense to transfer problems in the inner city to the western suburbs, where they will affect even more people. To compound the problem, it is likely that there will be no flight curfew at Badgerys — planes will fly in and out 24 hours a day. If the noise maps for a Badgerys Creek airport are as inaccurate as those for the third runway at KSA, densely populated areas like Penrith, Blacktown, Liverpool, Fairfield and Cabramatta could all suffer excessive noise. Badgerys Creek is also the site of the Prospect dam, which supplies one-third of Sydney's water supply. In addition to the increased pollution of the water from plane emissions, there is the risk of crashes into the dam causing pollution, flooding and a failure of the city's water supply. In the event of more common but lesser emergencies, fuel dumping will have to happen either into the dam or onto residential areas. The Badgerys Creek proposal will also mean more freeways in a city already congested and polluted by road transport. In any case, Badgerys Creek will serve only as an overflow airport and won't replace KSA, so the problems already being experienced by the inner west residents would continue. KSA should be closed. No airport should exist in a densely populated area, and particularly not one that's right next door to a petrochemical complex! But we totally oppose the plan to shift the disaster to Badgerys Creek. The current environmental impact study (EIS) into the Badgerys Creek proposal is a farce, because its frame of reference precludes rejecting the plan. The Greens and NAN have called for a new, fully independent EIS, with genuine community participation. But neither Labor nor Liberal will conduct such an EIS. Instead of this waste of money, a serious and urgent study must be made of alternative sites for a major airport outside Sydney's residential area. The costs of building an alternative airport should be met from increased taxes on corporations and the rich. A 1985 Federal Airports Corporation (FAC) study canvassed eight possible options for a new regional airport. One alternative which received considerable support from planners and local authorities was to locate a new airport on the Goulburn plateau, linked to Sydney and Canberra by a fast rail system. This and other options are worth reconsidering. In the interim, operations at KSA should limited to pre-November 1994 levels, the east-west runway should be temporarily reopened, and a strict flight curfew of 10pm to 7am should be enforced. The tourist giants will scream, but that's tough. People's quality of life must come before corporate profits.
[Karen Fletcher and Max Lane are the Democratic Socialist candidates for Sydney and Lowe, respectively.]