Sydney's second airport confirmed at Badgerys Creek. Photo: James Brickwood
Finally an airport is within reach for the 2 million residents of greater Western Sydney.
The longest and most contentious debate over infrastructure in our nation’s history has been settled only because both sides of politics have put down their political sabres to put western Sydney first. Isn’t it great to see what can be achieved through consensus? Sadly, this is not aregular occurrence.
So what’s changed the minds of the people of our vast region over Badgerys Creek airport? While not everyone will embrace the airport, this time around many local groups have lined up on the side of jobs and opportunity.
Last year the Sydney Business Chamber, Unions NSW and others formed an alliance to argue the case. Trade unions and businesses, community welfare organisations and local mayors have signed up to embrace a positive agenda around jobs and investment. We know the effect on family and community life of the long commute.
Of course, before the first plane takes off a number of things need to happen. Australia hasn’t built a major airport for decades. There’s work to be done.
First, the government will need to create a vehicle for delivering the airport. An authority should be established as the co-ordinating focus of government. It will need to update the previous environomental impact statement, seek development approval and negotiate with Macquarie Airports, which has the first right of refusal to build a second airport.
The authority will need to choose between the three runway alignments that were previously proposed. And the community will be anxious to know which suburbs will be affected. Knowledge will be the key to dispelling myths and lies that can become powerful campaigns.
Enlightened cities are hunting for passion and investment. We are not unique in having the challenge of establishing a second airport. Modern cities are confronting this across the globe. The real opportunity for our region is to use this new airport to reshape the industrial landscape of western Sydney and see the potential for new companies to gravitate to the precinct surrounding the airport. Airports are not just about planes and passengers – they are a magnet for jobs.
It is also important that the emerging yet fragile political consensus in favour of an airport is nurtured and supported by the region. It is entirely possible that there will be a number of changes of government before the first planes take off.
An airport will take time to finance and build. The approvals process is likely to be drawn out, but the courageous and sensible first step has been taken. This is a significant and defining moment in reshaping what is already a very rich history in western Sydney, with the benefits to be felt for generations.
David Borger is the director of the Western Sydney Business Chamber.