Federal Politics


Tralee plan an airport killer

Do you get disturbed by aircraft noise where you live in Canberra? No? That's because currently 99.5 per cent of Queanbeyan and Canberra residents are protected by noise abatement areas (that is, no-fly zones for jets) and instead flights are channelled through a high-noise corridor which is rural land, including a place called Tralee South.

This has been a strategic planning approach which has meant residents are protected, future airport operations are protected and economic growth for the region is secure. It is an ''all-win'' situation which has been unique to Canberra.

However, on Monday the NSW government approved residential housing in Tralee, which will see a residential suburb built directly under the flight path to Canberra Airport.

With the approval of the Tralee development, decades of strategic planning are now completely undone. It is only a matter of time before residents living in the new proposed Tralee area begin to complain about aircraft noise and push for a curfew to be placed on Canberra Airport's operations.

Why? Because history shows us that when you build under a flight path, even when people are warned that this is the case, they move in, realise the noise levels are worse than they expected and then decide ''I'm going to complain''. And this is precisely what we can anticipate for Tralee.

Experience from Australia and around the world shows that residents who live underneath flight paths successfully curtail the operations of their neighbouring airports.


The Commonwealth government, Air Services Australia and Qantas have all made it clear that Tralee is unacceptable for housing and that people will complain which will lead to noise sharing and a curfew. Any claims to the contrary by NSW Planning Minister Brad Hazzard are misguided.

All Canberra residents will now pay for the short-sighted decision of the NSW government because it is highly likely that with the development of Tralee, Canberra will need a noise-sharing plan in the future, just like Sydney, thereby increasing noise levels for residents of Canberra and Queanbeyan who currently have no aircraft noise issues.

Importantly, the new Tralee development also risks derailing future investment in Canberra Airport.

Noise complaints may potentially lead to a decision being made to put a curfew on flights.

If Tralee is built, the planned international expansion at Canberra Airport is at risk, because international flights to a destination like Canberra are going to need to be in the evening, post-peak service times to financially stack up for airlines. A curfew would make services like this impossible.

For the convenience of all people in Canberra and Queanbeyan it is also important that international, domestic and freight services be able to increase into the region. This will deliver significant economic and employment benefits. Potential passenger services from Asia, and especially freight services, will rely on Canberra retaining its 24-hour operations.

There is other land in the region which is more appropriate than Tralee to meet the population growth needs of Queanbeyan. Queanbeyan is no longer a country town just over the border, it is a critical part of the development of Canberra as a whole and planning decisions made by a neighbouring state government show that Queanbeyan and its regulation should be made in the context of the Canberra region as a whole, rather than by politicians on Macquarie Street in Sydney.

Canberra Airport is the gateway to our nation's capital and the only airport for this inland city, serving nearly four million passengers each year. It produces $1.34 billion in gross regional product each year including 12,500 jobs for the region.

The Capital Airport Group has invested $700 million in the airport since purchasing it, with $450 million being spent on a new state-of-the-art terminal and $100 million projected to be invested in the airport over the coming decade to secure and develop future international services.

Ultimately, the development of Canberra Airport gives rise to a much bigger issue - the airport's development can be the catalyst for the establishment of an economic and transport corridor from Sydney to Canberra and on to Melbourne. The corridor from Sydney to Melbourne is the fourth busiest aviation corridor in the world and it seems only logical that Canberra and its residents take advantage of it.

The approval of the Tralee development not only threatens the future growth of Canberra Airport, it threatens the future economic growth of the city and surrounding region as a whole - Queanbeyan included.

Previous NSW governments allowed extensive development around Badgery's Creek, writing off its potential as an airport into the future. Approval of Tralee will set Canberra Airport on a course for Badgery's Creek Mark II.

The city of Canberra cannot afford an airport curfew and therefore cannot afford for the Tralee development to go ahead.

Caroline Wilkie is chief executive of the Australian Airports Association.