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Issue #1734      June 8, 2016

Stop Western Sydney Airport!

Many workers and their unions have been sold a pup with the promise of jobs at Western Sydney Airport (WSA). Apart from being promoted by Lucy Turnbull and a pack of developers called the “Greater Sydney Commission”, the residents of western Sydney are waking up to the madness of building yet another carbon-belching airport in the Sydney Basin.

It is becoming more apparent every day, as more and more requirements to make it work become clear and the underlying environmental hazards are spelled out, that at worst western Sydney will get an aerial rubbish dump with inadequate infrastructure and a drain on the public purse, at best 24/7 additional air and noise pollution with questionable jobs benefit and a massive increase in vehicular traffic density in western Sydney and the Blue Mountains.

14 Reasons why Badgerys Creek Airport has got to be stopped …

More Air Pollution: Western Sydney lies in a low-level basin where domestic, industrial and traffic pollution is trapped by higher elevations all around. Already residents of Western Sydney suffer higher rates of respiratory illness and mood disorders than elsewhere in Sydney and NSW. Expanding low level air traffic from Mascot as well as across western Sydney and the Blue Mountains will only worsen the situation. Although presently jet aircraft exhausts amount to 2% of carbon emissions, “…by 2050 aviation is set to become one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions with around 10% of climate change directly attributable to aircraft.” (Source: Transport 2000 Report, Professor John Whitelegg, Daily Mail, August 27, 2015)

Threat to UNESCO World Heritage Site status: After the Howard government abandoned development of Badgerys Creek Airport in 1998, Blue Mountains National Parks were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2000. Under this listing, ALL levels of government are obliged to cooperate in protecting ALL heritage qualities of the site. Blue Mountains, Blacktown and Fairfield City Councils oppose an airport nearby, but now development-driven state and federal governments are undermining consensus on its status, making it now under threat. Already Australia’s custodianship of the Great Barrier Reef is remiss; if we develop this Airport we will become a global joke.

Ecological Impact: Blue Mountains National Parks hold a unique Hawkesbury sandstone- eucalypt wilderness containing 52 mammal, 63 reptile, over 30 frog, about one third (265) of Australia’s bird species, 120 butterfly species, 4,000 moth and numerous associated insect and flora species. (Source: Blue Mountains Conservation Society) Even if a small percentage of these species was made extinct or driven off by noise, vibration and air spoliation, the whole eco-system would be irrevocably altered – the claim to pristine wilderness would be a global lie.

Health Hazards: Despite woefully inadequate global research into the affects of jet exhausts we know that they contain: nitrogen dioxide (which damages the ozone), particulates such as sulphates and nitrates, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), sulphur dioxide and of course, carbon dioxide, the gas producing global warming. Also, heavy metal sediments rise with airport usage (Source: Transportation Research Record, 2014) - these would be deposited on Sydney’s water supply as well as upon western Sydney residents. “… oil droplets spewed by idling jets can turn into particles tiny enough to readily penetrate lungs and brain …” (Source: Science News, November 2011). Air pollutants and noise stress (far greater than any noise generated by wind turbines, causing Coalition governments to stop supporting them) are a direct cause of increased cardio-vascular disease and mental disorders (Source: Transport Report, Professor J Whitelegg 2015) Conclusion? “You are more likely to die from exposure to toxic pollutants in plane exhaust than in a plane crash.” (Source: National Geographic, October 2010)

Noise Pollution: Beware claims that jet noise is “significantly reduced”. The marginal reductions that have occurred cause increased fuel burn and thus more nitrate pollutants. Basically, jet noise is as bad as it ever was, and the planes are much bigger. The noise is worse at night, which is why Mascot has a curfew and residents around Melbourne’s Tullamarine want one. Maps issued by Department of Planning and Infrastructure hide the true picture. Government appointed (2010) Aircraft Noise Ombudsman Ron Brent explains: “Noise from an aircraft in flight does not fall in a straight line, and is not limited to those directly under the aircraft. It spreads widely over an area that gets wider as the aircraft gets higher … This means that the noise can reach more people once the aircraft is further from the airport, yet can be many kilometres from the take-off point before the noise stops becoming intrusive for most people.” Depending on weather conditions everyone in western Sydney could suffer, with no curfew and no funding for noise insulation – that was reserved for those with the curfew.

Lack of Proper Infrastructure: Failed PM Abbott’s announcement of the Badgery’s Creek Airport project was fanfared as an “Infrastructure Bonanza” for western Sydney. This has boiled down to road upgrades that were sorely needed (and probably on the drawing boards) anyway, with no funding for a rail link. This was left to the Baird state government which, despite the sale of electricity poles and wires plus a toll for the proposed WestConnex plus a budget surplus, could not afford to build it. Despite thought bubble suggestions of “Fast Rail Access”, passengers will be ferried by coaches and taxis, freight will be carried by more semi-trailers in all directions, thus nullifying any space provided by roads widening. As Paul Brederick, managing director of Jetgo observed: “For God’s sake, it is a major international airport and no express rail service to the CBD?” (Source: SMH, August 3, 2015)

Degradation of Sydney’s Water Supply: The proposed SW/NE direction of WSA runways means that air traffic must take off or land over Warragamba Dam/Lake Burragorang or Blacktown/Prospect. No other major city airport in the world risks runways so close to 80% of its drinking water. Disregarding the very rare chance of an accident (in the past year – 2015 – planes have crash landed in New York’s Hudson River and Taipei’s Keelung River) or fuel dumping, still “normal” toxic particulates and Volatile Organic Compounds will spray over these catchments and settle there. Insanity.

Threats to Aboriginal Cultural Heritage: At least 24 significant Aboriginal Heritage Sites have been identified on the Badgerys Creek Airport land area. The local managers of country and the Gandangarra Land Council Have not been properly consulted, and the destruction of these sites not been consented to or approved by the Aboriginal people of western Sydney …it is a case of “plough on regardless”.

Hazardous Jet Fuel Transportation: Mascot is close to jet-fuel supplies, Badgerys Creek is not. There is no funding for a dedicated pipeline or rail link. On average an Airbus burns three tonnes of jet fuel per hour, so you can deduce how much of this volatile cargo needs to be tankered from Port Botany to Badgerys Creek every day. Depending on usage volume, between 30,000 and 100,000 extra truck journeys per year will need to be made to keep the airport running. A mooted fuel depot at Plumpton would make little difference to the overall problem, merely create bottlenecks at the depot locale.

Traffic Congestion: With further residential development continuing on the Northern Road/Windsor Road corridors – a half a million extra people – it is difficult to see how the proposed $1.25 billion M-12 Link between Northern Road and the M-7 will do anything to assist vehicular travel direct to the CBD. The M-9 Orbital Link is a pipedream and unlikely to see the light of day in the next 20 years. The Coalition mantra of “More cars, more roads, more lanes” is killing Sydney and is only creating more bottlenecks. That same old mantra around Australia of “aviation hubs/bigger roads” is strangling our cities and ruining our quality of life.

Not Necessary: Basically, this airport is not “necessary” at all. Multiple airport cities like Tokyo (36 million), New York (24 million), and London (14 million) have populations way bigger than Sydney’s 5-6 million. Increased passenger numbers are being carried by bigger aircraft and fewer flights. Since the Howard government dumped the previous Badgery’s Creek thought-bubble in 1998, Mascot’s usage has only risen by 3%. Kingsford Smith Airport (KSA) is only running at 60% capacity now, and it’s not because of the curfew, but inefficient booking systems. Indeed, KSA has readily admitted it can “… handle the doubling of passenger movements to 74.3 million by 2033.” (Source: Daily Telegraph, April 28, 2015)

Uneconomic: If WSA is not funded properly it will become a shoddy, lame-duck airport requiring constant taxpayer subsidy. The estimated cost of construction is $6-8 billion, but does not provide a rail link nor a dedicated fuel pipeline. In its first five years of operation 2025-2030 it will be primarily a freight airport, and the next five years will be slow in passenger uptake. A similar “… world class centre of Aviation Excellence” (Avalon) has been operating out of Melbourne since 1997 and like WSA is around 50 kilometres from the CBD and without a rail link. Despite the fact that Melbourne is growing faster than Sydney and Avalon is located near a major industrial centre at Geelong, it is struggling to survive. Last year (2015), the Victorian government was obliged to supply a $12 million “lifeline” and the LinFox Group (its owner) a further $14 million to entice Jetstar to continue landing there. QANTAS showed its faith by closing down its maintenance workshop at Avalon and moving to Singapore. WSA will require either a $1 billion government subsidy or extra passenger levies to maintain its first 10 years’ operations. (Source: Deutsche Bank Report, 2015)

Jobs?: Given that in the next decade the population of western Sydney would have increased by more than 500,000 residents, the projected employment of 900 construction jobs building the Airport seems a drop in the ocean. The commissioned Deloitte Access Economics report for the NSW Business Chamber claims that by 2060 (if WSA reaches Dubai-size) a maximum of 46,285 jobs for the entire Sydney region which includes direct and indirect jobs – mainly indirect, which will probably never translate into real, long-term jobs. It is now clear that most of these jobs could occur if other infrastructure was carried out: transport options like metro and light rail links as well as improved bus timetabling and cycle-ways. This might actually begin to address the transport needs of western Sydney, instead of creating another Mascot bottleneck.

Curfews: Both the Turnbull Liberal govt. and the Shorten Labor Opposition have failed to support a curfew for WSA because lack of a curfew is the only way it can become “economic” (profitable for its private owner) – the only way it can draw flights away from Mascot (close to the CBD, Hotels and ‘sights’) is to be open at night. It stands to reason that most flights into Badgerys Creek will be during our sleep(less) time. Western Sydney comes off second best, again. Some people need to face the blatant truth: it’s either NO SECOND AIRPORT, or airplane noise 24 hours a day, 7 days a week duplicated across our city.

The Answer

Surely in this age of Global Warming our aim should be to reduce overall jet plane flights and airport usage to cut carbon waste. At present over 60% of flights in and out of Kingsford Smith Airport are domestic. 24% of flights are on the Sydney-Melbourne route and a further 5% to Canberra. High speed rail (HSR) could carry these passengers to their destinations more rapidly than aircraft. It is not too late to convert Badgerys Creek into a Bullet Train hub – there is an underground cavity being built there for “rail readiness” in any case – and many jobs could be supplied in building a line incrementally to Goulburn, Canberra and Melbourne, and maintaining it.

Sooner or later politicians must grasp this public transport nettle, because aviation, cars and trucks are killing our cities, and our people (please note the 20% rise in road deaths for NSW in 2015 – this is just the tip of the iceberg of injury costs). The state government needs to build a tunnelled fast-rail line direct from Badgerys Creek to Martin Place, and the federal government must spend its billions alternatively on High Speed Rail to Canberra and Melbourne.

The future is in rapid, comfortable and safe public transport at both a local and national level. The future is with a planned socialist transport system for the whole of Australia.

Next article – Venezuela: near the end?

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