So where will the Rudd government put a second airport for Sydney? The Minister for Infrastructure, Anthony Albanese, says plans for one will be “revived” but it won’t be at Badgerys Creek. And the door once again creaks open on one of the most difficult issues to confront any Australian government in terms of incandescent community anger and implacably opposite views.
Albanese has been a long time supporter of the Badgerys Creek site (link is here). And the once hopelessly remote site is now close to the path of the M7 motorway, which would make it highly competitive in trips times for passengers over a much larger part of Sydney than before.
There are two other alternatives in the Sydney basin.
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One is at Wilton, which has the space, yet is exquisitely located at the junction of the catchments of around 20% of Sydney’s natural water supply and on top of deep and active coal mines sufficiently unstable for urgent work to have began on preventing bridges that carry the Hume Freeway over nearby gorges from collapsing.
The other is for a short regional runway right beside Sydney’s unnatural water supply, the desalination plant at Kurnell, which could remove small flights from the main airport on the northern side of Botany Bay without cutting country flights off from either the city or airline connections.
This plan proposed by the late Bill Bradfield would involve a road link between the Kurnell Peninsula and La Perouse coincidentally making the Cronulla-Sutherland peninsula 15-25 minutes from Bondi Junction instead of 115 minutes today. The consequences for the demographics of south east Sydney resemble those of the harbour bridge connecting Milsons and Millers Point early last century. Only a road tunnel between Watson’s Bay and the Manly Warringah region has more potential to transform the nature of Sydney.
When Martin Ferguson was shadow minister he proposed building a second airport in the southern highlands for “low cost carriers”. But with Qantas turning itself into a low cost carrier a tide of change seems to have rolled over that, together with the excessive carbon footprint of adding a 200 kilometre return road trip to each of the tens of millions of Jetstar, Tiger or AirAsia X customers who could be expected to use the facility each year.
Whatever the government decides, the history of dithering, the environmental challenges and the painful constraints of the short cycles between federal and state elections make this a killer of an issue.