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Western Sydney doesn't want a new airport

Western Sydney doesn't want a new airport

Don’t tell us that we have to accept an airport open 24 hours a day before we get better roads, public transport and hospitals

» Media | Thursday, March 13, 2014 • The Guardian
Like Elvis sightings or the controversy over who shot JR, we’re hurtling back in time to yet another debate about Sydney’s second airport.
 
This debate has plagued Sydney since the 1940s, but it was only in the last decade that the leaders of both major political parties rightly read the mood of western Sydney. John Howard concluded in 2003 that Sydney wouldn’t need another airport in his lifetime; Labor took a transport policy to the 2004 federal election saying it recognised that Badgerys Creek was no longer a viable option for Sydney’s second airport. 
 
It didn’t take a genius to see that within the 10 federal electorates spanning western Sydney, there was no appetite for an airport smack in the middle of one of Australia’s fastest growing regions. Protests drawing tens of thousands of residents also helped clear the minds of political parties.
 
The west knocked back an airport at a time when unemployment had been in the double digit range, and when more and more people were flying overseas. Then, as now, the mood was dominated by a crucial question: how do you a balance a need for jobs with the demand for a good quality of life for residents strung out kilometres away from Sydney’s CBD?
 
Back in 2011, I called for the land set aside for the airport to be turned into an employment corridor. In its place, we got nothing. The land just sat there like a memorial flame, warming the secret hopes of those who would roll out the tarmac there, regardless of what western Sydney wanted.
 
Since that time – and off the back of a cleverly choreographed campaign – the supporters of a second airport have been pumping out a barrage of half-truths and well spun lines that they thought would be lapped up by western Sydney residents.
 
That campaign ran out of tarmac in Blacktown last Tuesday night (pardon the pun). At an airport forum held in the same hall where Gough Whitlam promised better sewerage for western Sydney in 1972, residents objected to the quality of information being served to them about the second airport. They complained they weren’t being treated with respect, and that they were being punished with a second airport as the only avenue for job growth and better infrastructure in western Sydney.
 
Most of the people pushing the airport don’t live in western Sydney and don’t contend with what generations of residents have had to put up with: congestion, infrastructure shortfalls and job demands that have taken too long to meet. When a travelling roadshow comes to town offering a nirvana of jobs and better roads, you wonder what the catch is - and then react when told you have to take 24 hour a day airport with it.
 
Residents jeered at the bribe on offer and rightly demanded that they deserved better infrastructure; not because it’s not a luxury but because it’s a necessity for those living on the city fringes. Having heard promises of better infrastructure before, they doubt the offer being put to them now. This is especially the case when simple infrastructure demands are hard to attend to: railway stations that look like they belong on the set of The Sullivans, hospitals lacking equipment or having it taken away, roads choked – even on the weekend.
 
When people from outside western Sydney wonder why there hasn’t been a decision on the airport for 30 years – and why the west is still resisting it – just bear in mind that we have a list of infrastructure needs an arm length long and we expect this to be tackled first. And don’t come to telling us that we have to accept an airport open 24 hours a day before we get better roads, public transport and hospitals.
 
Any decision that doesn’t involve the region or respect its legitimate expectation for its concerns to be heard can expect the response that the Badgerys Creek Airport cheer squad got last Tuesday.
 
The Guardian
Tags: airport,
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