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Badgerys Creek was the right site then and is the right site now

Date

Paul Keating and Peter Morris

A protest against the planned airport at Badgerys Creek, which former prime minister Paul Keating says is still the best spot for a second airport for Sydney.

A protest against the planned airport at Badgerys Creek, which former prime minister Paul Keating says is still the best spot for a second airport for Sydney. Photo: Andrew Taylor

A report in yesterday's Herald that an aviation white paper will rule out ''once and for all'' the use of the Badgerys Creek site in western Sydney for Sydney's second airport would represent a scandalous violation of responsible public policy at the cost of the amenity of the city of Sydney and its people.

The Badgerys Creek site was purchased by the Hawke government 25 years ago. It was purchased with all aforethought to the future needs of Sydney for this vital piece of public infrastructure.

And from the completion of its purchase, the Hawke government vigorously advertised its intentions to local councils and communities, including publishing detailed flight paths and noise patterns.

The sidelining of Badgerys Creek by the Crean Labor opposition and the Howard government occurred for no reason other than cynicism and political opportunism. The opposition abandoned it because of Labor seats and the potential of Labor seats around the site and the government compounded the issue by sterilising the site with its great lie of the year 2000; that Sydney was in no need of a second airport. The Government should look past any white paper group report, to discern for itself the genuine airport needs of Sydney. Inevitably, this must devolve to an airport within the immediate metropolitan area. And only one site qualifies: Badgerys Creek.

This is why the Keating government decided to develop Badgerys Creek, allocating $762 million in the 1995 budget to fast-track construction of the main runway.

The Badgerys Creek land should not be sold. The land parcels could never be assembled again. While the site exists, a second metropolitan airport for Sydney remains a live option.

Already, in anticipation of this report's publication, every flyblown developer organisation is on the record as wanting to chop the site up for development and developer profits. Disposal of the land would simply put developer interests ahead of the community's interest.

The Hawke and Keating governments built Sydney's third runway at Mascot. They did so over huge obstructionism by special interest groups.

But without the third runway, where would Sydney be? And where will it be without a second metropolitan airport?

Badgerys Creek is a far politically easier site to realise as an airport than was the third runway at Mascot. Residential and municipal objections to it can only arise from subdivisions built after the site was bought and in the knowledge that the Commonwealth had planned the site for Sydney's second airport. And as such, should be seen for what they are: special pleading.

Indeed the very same issues would arise should a change to regular public transport use be undertaken at Richmond.

The Rudd Government claims a renewed and special interest in necessary public infrastructure, and correctly so. But, for an internationalised economy such as Australia's, there can be no greater or more specific need than to have adequate airport capacity in its largest city. On this issue, the Prime Minister is entitled to proper public interest advice from relevant ministers: weak white papers driven by tricky factional counter-play are not and never can be a substitute for public policy with integrity.

36 comments

  • It takes the grand practitioner of Sydney spiv politics to spell out the obvious - this Federal govt thinks nothing of trashing previous commitments and leaves the stinking mess for someone else to clean up.

    Commenter
    bitrich
    Date and time
    December 17, 2009, 6:07AM
    • It's been clear for some time that Badgerys Creek is unsuitable for a second airport. There were protest marches against the proposal since the Hawke Government bought it.

      If you want an ideal site for a second airport all you need to do is look at a map of the Sydney basin. There is a little used army base called Holsworthy, just west of Heathcote Rd. You'd only need a quarter of it for an international airport, it's not too far out of town, transport links easily upgradeable, and best of all, aircraft noise can be minimised. All it needs are 2 north/south runways, planes take off to the south, then out to sea over the Royal National Park.

      I'm amazed no-one seems to have noticed. People talking about Goulburn, Richmond and Newcastle when the solution is much closer.

      Commenter
      peter
      Location
      nsw
      Date and time
      December 17, 2009, 6:30AM
      • Peter,

        I am sorry but Holsworthy could not and never would be considered for a major airport location. The original title deed for that land to Defence from the NSW Government specifically only allowed it for defence purposes. If the land is not to be used for defence it cannot be used for anything else. It is also environmentally significant and mostlycannot be touched for future development. Badgerys was the only real site available. The reason it was purchased for an airport site was precisely because there was no intense development around it and there still isn't. The NSW planning ministerial direction 117 specifically disallows any incompatible development around the site to this day.

        Commenter
        ziggypop
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        December 17, 2009, 7:12AM
        • So it starts again.
          I recall the Whitlam Govt releasing a report on the Future Airport Needs of Sydney and we still havn't seen a load of concrete poured in fourty years.
          But for Keating and Morris to now bleat about the abandoning of Badgerys Ck as an airport is disingenuous.
          They had their hands on the levers of power and could of started building the first runway at Badgerys Ck while they were in power.
          Just shows how careful Sydney has to be to allow Keating to be involved with planning for Sydney's future development.

          Commenter
          Allan
          Location
          Monaro
          Date and time
          December 17, 2009, 7:27AM
          • One problem is Australian political parties have no back bone on sensitive issues. Another problem is if they do show back bone on sensitive issues they are declared aragant. Its our own fault really.

            Commenter
            Sam
            Location
            Sydney
            Date and time
            December 17, 2009, 7:35AM
            • Please, people -"could HAVE" -not "could of"
              and "forty" is the spelling, not fourty.
              ps It must be Badgery's Creek. After all those millions spent and agreements made, surely it's not necessary to start again.

              Commenter
              grammar fiend
              Location
              sydney
              Date and time
              December 17, 2009, 7:41AM
              • Spot on!

                Commenter
                al
                Location
                syd
                Date and time
                December 17, 2009, 7:43AM
                • Badgerys Creek? Well spoken by someone who thinks Pyrmont is an outer suburb. Now I will speek as someone under the flight path (Enmore)
                  Wilton would have been a good place, until they decided to open it all up to residential estates.
                  Richmond is not a bad idea as a freight airport. Just improve rail/road links.
                  The best alternative would be a high speed (mag lev?) network linking east coast cities. If the domestic air clutter was taken out of Sydney Airport it could cope as the only passenger airport in the basin for quite a while.

                  Commenter
                  Nathan
                  Location
                  Sydney
                  Date and time
                  December 17, 2009, 7:57AM
                  • if you click on Google earth and using tools dray a circle with a radius of 10km centred on the Badgerys Creek site you will see that there is no residential other than farmland surrounding the site. The decision not to proceed with Badgerys is clearly political. The article is correct. There is no other site which would enable a full service airport to proceed in Sydney. If built it would rival Mascot for permanent jobs. I think a lot of people who live in Western Sydney would prefer to travel 10km to their plact of work rather than penrith or Liverpool to City Centre. Think about it. The noise issue is and has always been a furphy bandied about by a minority group.

                    Commenter
                    ziggypop
                    Location
                    Sydney
                    Date and time
                    December 17, 2009, 8:04AM
                    • They should have gotten on with Badergy's creek 25 years ago and told the then hand full of locals "Tuff luck". Now a good deal of Sydney's population live in the greater area, so it is in no way viable. If they are going to use Windsor, then they should say so immediately and commit to it, so no-one else builds in the area. Personally I think they should build one 3-5km off the coast and then have a high speed rail link into the heart of the city. The Engineering is no more difficult then building a second land airport further out and transporting people to the city. Freight could continue to come into Mascot and possibly Windsor.

                      Commenter
                      ibast
                      Location
                      Preston
                      Date and time
                      December 17, 2009, 8:10AM

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