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Badgerys Creek airport a 'death sentence' for residents, says councillor

Health concerns: Stephen Bali, left.

Health concerns: Stephen Bali, left. Photo: Helen Nezdropa

A western Sydney councillor says building a new airport at Badgerys Creek will be a "death sentence" for residents who he claims are already battling cancer and respiratory illness rates that are three times higher than those recorded on the coast.

Blacktown city councillor Stephen Bali said western Sydney residents should not be held to ransom over the airport so that the area could get the road and rail infrastructure it needed.

A foregone conclusion: Cabinet to confirm Badgerys Creek as the site for Sydney's second airport.

A foregone conclusion: Cabinet to confirm Badgerys Creek as the site for Sydney's second airport. Photo: Brendan Esposito

Chief among Mr Bali's concerns were the health implications if, as expected, federal cabinet on Tuesday finalised plans to construct the long-awaited western Sydney aviation hub.

Mr Bali, who is also the secretary of the No Badgerys Creek Airport group, told the ABC on Tuesday that pollution generated by a new airport would not be able to flow out of western Sydney.

"Right now if you add up all the cancer rates, respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases and asthma, you're basically three times more likely to die in western Sydney than on the eastern seaboard, and I don't think planes carry filters with them," Mr Bali said.

"They actually add to the air pollution in the area, so this will be a death sentence for western Sydney residents if you whack an airport in there, since the air can't flow out of western Sydney as far as pollution is concerned."

Asked if his reasoning was a "bit of a stretch", Mr Bali responded that it wasn't.

He said his information was based on an Environmental Impact Statement from the late 1990s, conducted when there were fewer than 2 million people in the area, a number which had since grown.

Noise pollution was also a concern, Mr Bali told the ABC.

"They're not going to have a curfew in western Sydney, they're basically going to have a 24/7 airport," he said.

"At 2 o'clock in the morning, 3 o'clock in the morning, there's going to be, you know, 20, 30 planes flying in. No one will be able to sleep. It's just going to be a quality-of-life disaster for western Sydney residents."

A second Sydney airport has been mooted since the 1970s in a bid to take pressure off Mascot's Kingsford Smith Airport, which is subject to a curfew between 11pm and 6am.

Labor MPs have on Tuesday morning demanded details about a similar curfew at the new airport, while western Sydney Liberal backbencher Alex Hawke called for a discussion on lifting the curfew at Mascot to ensure fairness approach across both airports.

Western Sydney Liberal MP Fiona Scott said implementing curfews was vital to gaining the support of the people of the region.

"What happens to the people of the eastern suburbs should be exactly the same as what happens in the western suburbs," Ms Scott told Sky News.

Western Sydney Labor member Ed Husic warned the government against "blackmailing Sydney's west" with infrastructure funds.

"It's just simply been a case of, and by that I mean they say 'If you want better infrastructure, you've got to support the airport and by virtue of blocking the airport you won't get better infrastructure,' " Mr Husic told ABC Radio.

Mr Husic, the opposition's treasury parliamentary secretary, said it would be "completely unacceptable" to run the airport without a curfew.

"This airport was proposed to run 24 hours a day, seven days a week, which is completely unacceptable for western Sydney residents who'll be forced to contend with something the other side of town doesn't."

Mr Hawke also insisted on a consistent curfew policy across both airports.

"If Kingsford Smith retains a curfew, then this airport, Badgerys Creek, should also have a similar curfew," Mr Hawke told ABC Radio.

"I mean, there are arguments to extend the hours of operating at Kingsford Smith and those arguments, if they're made and successful, ought to apply for Badgerys as well. But if it's good enough for one airport then it should be good enough for another.

"We're definitely looking at up to 35,000 new jobs, and not just construction jobs but ongoing jobs for the airport and all of the ancillary services, but also the economic benefits that come with an airport in the region - and jobs means better communities."

Liverpool mayor Ned Mannoun said locals were sick and tired of hearing about an impending decision and wanted construction to start soon.

"If this were to get delayed ... there is a chance that people will start saying 'No, we don't want this any more because more and more people are moving into the area,' " he told ABC radio.

Labor's employment spokesman Brendan O'Connor offered tentative support for the proposal, which he said was "long overdue" and "needs to be done".

"It's not just a Sydney matter, it's for the nation. It's our largest port and therefore it's critical that we eventually determine this second airport, but we'd like to see the detail … so we can respond more fully," he told Sky News.

Western Sydney Airport Alliance spokesman David Borger said the decision to build at Badgerys Creek was long overdue.

He said local residents would support the decision because it would create jobs and raise living standards.

Associate Professor in health and environment Ben Mullins from Curtin University, agreed that there could be some health effects from an increase in airport pollution but said Mr Bali might be "over stating the problem".

"I doubt there will be a huge problem in terms of health but there may be a small number of people with existing problems that may get worse if they live near the airport and the particulates increase significantly," Professor Mullins said.

"We are exposed to [particulates] every day everywhere as it is emitted by all diesel vehicles."

Particulates from diesel emissions, jet engines and other vehicles with carbon based emissions have been recently classified by the World Health Organisation as being a suspected human carcinogen that could lead to respiratory problems such as asthma, Professor Mullins said.

While the fine particulates can be harmful if there is a significant increase in emissions, Professor Mullins said the health effects on the local population would depend on whether an airport pollution "buffer zone" was sufficient.

With AAP, Amanda Hoh

 


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