The ambitions of Terry Snow, one of Australia’s wealthier men and owner of Canberra Airport, and those of long time opponent of an expanded Sydney Airport and NSWS Planning Minister Frank Sartor, are locked in a peculiarly bitter fight over a housing estate near Queanbeyan, just over the state line from the capital.

Sartor is siding with a consortium proposing to built $2.5 billion worth of housing in bushland where it would be exquisitely positioned to either frustrate the growth of Canberra Airport, or expose the development’s home owners to 24 hour surround sound jet noise.

But Snow wants to expand Canberra to serve the overflow traffic that Sydney can never realistically handle thanks to decades of hostility by Sartor, former Mayor of Sydney and now one of many state ministers to have resolutely opposed more flights at the harbour city’s infamously congested airport.

It is as if Sartor is insisting that “if our airport can’t handle the flights, Canberra can’t take them either.”

The extent of Snow’s ambitions have come to light in the complex and incomplete litigation between him and Sartor over noise projections and planning powers. Canberra Airport has projected that within about 10 years it will handle, between 7am and 7pm, a total of 76 takeoffs or landings by wide body jets with 250 seats or more, at least half of them in jets as big or long as any currently in service.

Including day time flights, it will average 32 movements an hour, and without a curfew, have the potential to grow to more than half Sydney’s frequency of services which is capped at 80 flights an hour between 6am and 11pm.

Clearly, the passengers to fill them aren’t going to come exclusively from Canberra’s one third of a million residents but Sydney’s 4 million.

Already there is only an extra 30 minutes drive time from south-western Sydney to Canberra Airport compared to the usual grid lock and the poisonous fumes of the M5 East tunnel that gets between much of the metropolitan sprawl and Kingsford Smith Airport.

Of course there is one other obvious solution to Sydney’s looming airport crisis that neither Snow nor Sartor and especially the major parties want mentioned in the run up to the election.

And that is Badgery’s Creek. This once hopelessly remote yet legislatively protected site for a second Sydney Airport is now within a short spur road’s distance of the M7 orbital toll road, and would be much faster to reach from Parramatta, the Hills District, and in due course, even the upper North Shore, than is the case driving to the major airport.

But no-one is going to say “Boo” about actually doing anything about fixing Sydney Airport, apart from trying to ensure that the answer isn’t Canberra Airport, until after the election.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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