A little more than a week before the release of the Aviation White Paper, the local government of Queanbeyan is pushing ahead with a housing development that would shut down the expansion of neighbouring Canberra Airport.

It is a very NSW story, where developers rule and to hell with the consequences, even for the national capital, from which  Queanbeyan, just across the ACT border, derives crucial economic activity.

It is also a planning and development case study par excellence.

Queanbeyan City Council has proposed the rezoning of rural land, which will allow between 2000-5000 homes to be built at Tralee.

There are plenty of other opportunities to create housing estates elsewhere near Queanbeyan.

But the reality of Tralee is that because of strict noise rules already applying to aircraft movements over Canberra and Queanbeyan, its rural splendour is the main conduit for flight paths that avoid the built-up areas.

Building on Tralee conforms to the institutionalised cretinism of NSW planning’ processes, which is essentially what the federal government, AirServices Australia, Qantas and, surprise, the owners of Canberra Airport have all said.

By creating a situation where noise sharing rules by day and a curfew by night would become inevitable, the Tralee development cuts off the proposed development of curfew-free Canberra Airport as a 24 hours air-freight hub serving Sydney as well as the immediate region.

It also threatens the future use of Canberra Airport by medium-sized new technology wide-body jets to provide Sydney bypass flights to South-East Asia, China, Korea and Japan.

There is, however, a wider issue. Without efficient air transport, no city or region can develop its business, tourism and product distribution to their potential, and thus loses access to future growth in jobs and prosperity.

Queanbeyan risks injuring the city that sustains it.

The choice is between having more houses and more economic activity derived from an expanded Canberra Airport, or having housing at Tralee and no such benefits.

But this is NSW. Tralee will go most likely go ahead, and Canberra and Queanbeyan will pay an enormous price.

Peter Fray

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