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Wilton or somewhere else "south of the Nepean": the airport that will never be built.



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MEDIA RELEASE The Hon John Anderson MP Deputy Prime Minister Minister for Transport and Regional Services Leader of The Nationals

30 January 2004 A13/2004

WILTON OR SOMEWHERE ELSE "SOUTH OF THE NEPEAN" - THE AIRPORT THAT WILL NEVER BE BUILT

Labor's desperate decision to select Wilton or "somewhere south of the Nepean River" as the site of a second Sydney airport is a triumph for political expediency and a disaster for sensible policy, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Transport and Regional Services, John Anderson, said today.

"This wacky decision has been taken purely because of internal political pressure within the ALP," Mr Anderson said.

"Inner city MPs can claim that Labor will shift airport noise, but the reality is an airport at Wilton or anywhere else 'south of the Nepean through the Southern Highlands' will NEVER be built.

"Labor's transport spokesman Martin Ferguson admitted it himself tonight, when he said his plan was moved 'in the context of trying to end an ugly and unnecessary debate that's torn the Labor Party apart for decades'.

"It's pure politics. This has everything to do with Labor infighting and nothing to do with Sydney's airport needs. It is simply morally bankrupt, and a non-decision at that."

Mr Anderson said the problems with an airport in this vast region were insurmountable.

The problems with Wilton - which appears to be Labor's most likely site - were identified in 1985 and 1999 environmental impact statements. They include:

● The Wilton site is 81 kilometres by road from Sydney's central business district. By

comparison, Tokyo's Narita Airport is 64 kilometres out of the city - the furthest airport from a CBD in the world. Taxi fares from Narita airport to the CBD sometimes top $300. ● According to the 1999 EIS, travelling by road from Wilton into the city would take

between 80 and 90 minutes. By existing rail, it would be 70-80 minutes. ● A very fast train might reduce this time to 35 minutes, but the 1999 EIS said that

might be impossible to achieve because of the alignment of the East Hills rail corridor. Expected low levels of patronage would drive up ticket costs. ● Mr Latham has said (January 14) that a second airport in the Sydney basin "won't

work" because of environmental concerns. Wilton is geographically just outside the

basin, but environmentally it is very much inside the basin. ● A large proportion of the site is a major water catchment for the Sydney region, and

all water run-off from the site drains to protected waterways. ● It is located on the boundary of Sydney's air drainage basin.

● The site is mostly undisturbed native forest and woodland which the 1985 Kinhill

Stearns EIS found to be of high ecological value. There are also a number of endangered animals in the area.

Obviously, any airport site south of Wilton will be far worse on the distance issue - Berrima, Wells Creek and Sutton Forest are all at least 130 kilometres by road from Sydney. It could well be worse environmentally, and local residents will be no doubt shocked to hear that without consultation Labor says it wants their backyards for an airport.

The 1999 EIS looked at a number of alternative airport sites. It concluded:

"The major difficulty for all of the alternative sites that lie outside the Sydney basin is their distances from Sydney, which would make it time consuming, costly and inconvenient for airport users to travel to and from the city area or to connect with Sydney's existing airport. Most major airports around the world are located within 50 kilometres of the central business district for the very reason that they have to be close to the markets they serve."

Labor at its national conference should have adopted the Australian Government's sensible approach. A second Sydney airport is simply not needed in the foreseeable future.

"All the evidence suggests a Wilton or Southern Highlands airport will never be built. But if Labor in government were to go down this crazy path, the evidence also suggests it would be the biggest white elephant in Australian history," Mr Anderson said.

Media Contacts

Paul Chamberlin ( Minister Anderson's Office ) 0419 233 989