Kooragang Island Airport Proposal
KOORAGANG ISLAND AIRPORT PROPOSAL
Mr GAUDRY (Newcastle) [5.47 p.m.]: I bring to the attention of the House the concerns of the residents of Stockton, Fern Bay and the inner city areas of Newcastle about a proposal to locate the second Sydney airport on Kooragang Island as a replacement for Badgerys Creek. I wish to place on record the serious impact that an airport on that site would have on the quality of life of the people of the areas I have mentioned, both in terms of noise levels and the value of their property. I state quite unequivocally in this House that I am opposed to the construction of an airport on Kooragang Island. I am not opposed to giving consideration to the development of an airport in the Hunter based on a full and thorough research, such as has been done for the environmental impact study for Badgerys Creek.
However, we should rule out immediately the placing of an airport so close to the urban area of Newcastle. Kooragang Island is right in the middle of an internationally recognised Ramsar wetland. Drainage from airport activities, whether it be tarmac drainage or drainage from the operations of the airport itself, have the potential to impact on the area. The impact of potential development on Kooragang Island must also be taken into account. Proposals are already up and running based upon research and the capacity to invest. The potential impact on Williamtown Airport must also be borne in mind. The proposal, which I believe has been cursorily researched, means that the airport would operate 24 hours a day on the site. At its maximum capacity, 670 flights a day would be required to move the proposed 30 million passengers.
Scant material has been put out on the proposal. Neither I nor other members representing electorates in the region have had the benefit of a briefing by the proponents of this airport. They have put their proposal forward. Although it is claimed that the noise impact will be minimal as all aeroplanes will fly into and out of the airport in a straight line, all members know that weather conditions and airport operational procedures mean that any airport has an array of take-off and landing zones. Obviously, the impact of the proposed airport would be considerable on the residents of Stockton, Fern Bay and suburbs like Mayfield. It is claimed that the impact will be minimal; the proponents even say that they would probably move St Joseph’s Home. That, of course, would be only one impact.
The proponents also propose that the airport be linked with Sydney by a very fast train, a rail link that will take 40 minutes to transport passengers between Newcastle and Sydney. The proponents do not indicate who will fund that proposal. They indicate, however, that it will cost more than $2 billion, and that figure does not include the cost of the purchasing the area through which a very fast train would travel. A substantial number of land-holdings would obviously have to be purchased. That cost does not include rolling stock. This week’s Business Review Weekly, at page 26, carries an article about the new Minister for Transport, John Anderson, which states in part:
That is not a reference to the Newcastle to Sydney train, but a reference to the very fast train between Sydney and Canberra. So the airport proposal is linked to a dubious project that is not funded. So far as I am concerned, the very fast train and an airport
on Kooragang Island would have far too great an environmental impact on the people of Stockton, Fern Bay and the inner city of Newcastle. Those proposals would adversely impact on the quality of life of residents. For those reasons I oppose the airport suggestion. However, I am not opposed to finding a site that is more compatible with transport to the city of Newcastle and to Sydney. [Time expired.]
Mr FACE (Charlestown - Minister for Gaming and Racing, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Hunter Development) [5.52 p.m.]: I do not reject the idea of an airport on Kooragang Island out of hand, but there are some major concerns about the plan. One could talk about the environment, the watertable, proximity to industrial activities and the effect on residential areas, but the plan depends very much on a very fast train. Without a very fast train, in my view the plan will have no legs. Where will the money come from to fund the proposal? Others are asking the same question. It is estimated that it would cost $2.1 billion to construct the airport and a further $600 million to provide rolling stock. That totals $2.7 billion.
There is no estimation in the documentation that I have seen with respect to land acquisition. A better estimation of the cost is likely to be closer to $5 billion. Financial viability is another crucial question, as the Sydney to Canberra very fast train is not yet viable, though it may become so in the fullness of time. The Kooragang Island airport plan does seem flawed on the face of it. Until the train issue is resolved, the plan is not viable. The Hunter need jobs, but not at any price. I can understand the AMU and the Australian Business Chamber wanting to create jobs. As chairman of Hunter Beyond 2000, I am equally as concerned about the provision of jobs.
The honourable member for Newcastle has expressed concerns on behalf of the residents of Stockton and Fern Bay because noise footprints for the flight paths would appear to be very conservative and do not take into account an array of flight patterns, both for entry and departure. It is of further concern that other estimates show far greater areas than merely Stockton and Fern Bay will be affected. Newcastle residents and people in the Maitland-Newcastle corridor also would be affected. That is only one aspect of the many environmental drawbacks in the plan. As Minister responsible for the Hunter, I am happy to consider the proposal when more information is available, particularly if a more appropriate site can be found. People will continue to be sceptical about the proposal. Hilton Gruson made a statement some two weeks ago, and my friend of 30 years predicted that this would be the knockout punch. [Time expired.]
Dubbed the Minister for Keeping One Nation off the Government’s Back, Anderson needs a big project like the Very Fast Train, which has yet to prove its economic viability.