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Wednesday, 15 September 1971
Page: 1344

Mr SWARTZ (Darling Downs) (Minister for National Development) - by leave - The statement I am about to make has already been made to the Senate by my colleague the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton). Copies of the statement as delivered by him are now being circulated for the information of honourable members.

After much detailed work and consideration a definite stage has now been reached in the plans and proposals for the airport needs of Sydney. As well as being the largest and oldest city in the Commonwealth, Sydney is also the principal gateway for people flying to and from Australia. Aviation is a growth industry. Although it is only a relatively young transport arm, it has in recent years exhibited dramatic growth rates. Its capacity for technological development is well know to all of us and because of our vast distances between major centres of population, Australia has relied heavily on its most important advantage, that is speed. But while it has brought our most remote centres within hours of the capital cities in every State of the Commonwealth, aviation has continued to demand a substantial share of the national resources. Although these resources are of course limited, it should be remembered that civil aviation is growing at a faster rate than the national growth rate.

The industry's progress has demanded a high degree of forward planning and expertise not only in the air but also on the ground in the development of airports and ground facilities. Take just one example.

Early in 1969 the Commonwealth Government set up an interdepartmental committee, comprising representatives of the Department of Civil Aviation, the Department of the Interior, the Treasury and the Department of Works to advise the Government on the major airport requirements for Sydney. In particular the committee, under the chairmanship of the Department of Civil Aviation, was asked to consider the need for a second airport and, if this was established, to consider and report upon its location. Fully realising that this was a matter of great importance to the whole community, the Minister for Civil Aviation, when questioned over recent months, has pointed out that he would report on the matter as soon as it was practicable for him to do do. 1 am now in a position to inform the House of the results of the committee's work as well as the decisions taken by the Government after considering its report, lt has also been judged appropriate to make this statement available concurrently to our colleagues in the State Parliament of New South Wales, through' the Premier, and to the community at large.

The interdepartmental committee was created following the preliminary investigations which the Department of Civil Aviation had been carrying out over a number of years. For some time the Department had been conscious of an ultimate need to provide additional airport capacity for Sydney and its investigations had covered both the extension of the present airport site as well as a general study of areas around Sydney where a second airport could be established in due course when it was needed. In its consideration of locations where a second airport might be established, the Department appreciated the difficulty in finding suitable places within a reasonable distance of Sydney.

A modern airport requires a large area of land, particularly if it is to cater for aircraft used on international services. It must also have obstruction-free approaches and be located on reasonably flat ground if construction costs are to be kept within acceptable limits. Airports are expensive assets and belong to the whole community. Once established it is vitally important that they are able to be located in areas where there is ample opportunity to have them adequately separated from the surrounding development that a large and fast growing metropolis like the Newcastle, Sydney, Wollongong complex brings in its train. In these respects, the terrain around Sydney seriously restricts the number of alternative locations for such an airport. Also, the extent of built-up areas around Sydney precludes the use of a number of otherwise suitable areas.

In its earlier considerations, the Department carefully examined a great number of locations and was able to reduce these to about a dozen, which then needed much more careful consideration individually in a number of respects. Honourable members will agree, I am sure, that it was right and proper for a Commonwealth interdepartmental committee to be first to study the second airport proposal. The Commonwealth has a very heavy responsibility in providing and maintaining the major airports in this country and is therefore in a good position to establish the national requirements as a whole. In examining the future airport requirements for Sydney, the committee first of all had to consider the probable growth in aircraft movements in air services of various classes for quite a long time ahead. Such predictions are complex and not necessarily precise as the actual growth can be influenced by unforeseen circumstances.

Careful consideration of the capacity attainable in peak periods at Sydney Airport was also necessary. This depends on many factors such as weather conditions, the air traffic control facilities available, the mixture of aircraft types and noise abatement procedures. The committee found it necessary to take account of the various factors in order to arrive at capacity figures which could be used for comparison with the future traffic predictions. I am familiar with the voluminous working papers which the committee considered and I would like to say we must all be most impressed by the thoroughness with which these aspects of the task were approached.

The committee determined that additional airport capacity, over and above that of Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport in its present form, would be required in the late 1970s. The committee also concluded that even if the present airport is improved and its capacity increased, there will still be a need for a second airport. Depending upon the improvements made at Mascot and the growth in the traffic which it serves, the second airport will most probably be required no later than the early 1980s. From many points of view, Mascot is an excellent site for an airport, being within 8 miles of the centre of Sydney and surrounded to a large extent by Botany Bay. The value of its proximity to Sydney is all the more important as we now know that, with the particular problems of siting a new airport in the Sydney area, this could easily be about 40 miles or more from the centre of the city. Mascot also forms an integral part of a fast developing transport complex in which road, rail and ports are linked with the airport.

In making these comments I am not overlooking some of the problems of the present site, its restricted area and the disturbances caused in some residential areas by aircraft noise. Its location in relation to the centre of metropolitan Sydney is therefore extremely important if the air services using the airport are to meet the community needs. Obviously, there is therefore some conflict between the interests of Sydney as a whole, both now and in the future, and the interests of communities adjacent to the airport. A reasonable balance between these interests would not be achieved by accepting the propositions put by some sections that Sydney (KingsfordSmith) Airport should not be developed, or that it should even be abandoned.

The Minister has previously stated his view that we are committed to the present airport indefinitely. That it should remain and be developed was the view also expressed by the Chifley and Scullin governments, lt currently represents a book value investment of $167m, $ll2m of this from public funds and $55m from private enterprise. It would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to replace. We cannot afford, nor do we intend, to throw away such a valuable and important community asset which, despite some difficult noise problems, has very great advantages by comparison with any other potential airport site. The new runway, extending into Botany Bay and over 13,000 feet in length when it comes into operation early in 1972, will make the airport a better neighbour to the community and more operationally effective.

The Department of Civil Aviation has studied the noise problems very carefully - and will continue to do so - and a great deal has been done to limit its severity. The various measures currently being taken add to the operating costs of the airline industry quite substantially and with other measures which will gradually have effect in the future, the situation will be kept under reasonable control. The Department is currently preparing a comprehensive noise monitoring system for this airport which I hope will be installed next year. It is not often appreciated that this Department, that is, the Department of Civil Aviation, has played a leading role in world aviation organisations aimed at dealing with the noise problem and production of quieter engines.

While it is, of course, intended to retain the present curfew, it is not only up to the civil aviation industry and the Department of Civil Aviation to limit the effects of aircraft noise. In the long term a great deal can be achieved by proper planning in areas adjacent to the airport. In this connection the Department of Civil Aviation is offering all the assistance it can to the local authorities as well as to the State Government, which has the authority outside the airport boundaries.

For some time the Department of Civil Aviation has been carefully examining alternative proposals for increasing the capacity of Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport. No secret has been made of the fact that improvements such as parallel runways involving extensions into Botany Bay have been under examination. These investigations are still proceeding in consultation with appropriate elements of the aviation industry and the New South Wales State Government. The inter departmental committee was acquainted with alternative proposals for the development of Mascot and was able to consider in general terms the differing effects of such proposals in meeting the airport needs for Sydney.

Having reached this point, the Committee turned its attention to alternative locations for a second airport and it reviewed the dozen or so locations which the Department believed had any prospect at all of accommodating a major airport. One of the first things to be determined for each location was the rough layout of an airport, the location and length of runways and the position of terminal areas. This work was necessarily preliminary in nature at this stage, but in considerable detail. It allowed the subsequent consideration of the effects of air traffic using such airports on the use of airspace generally in the Sydney area. Not only were the effects of civil airport operations at Sydney (KingsfordSmith) Airport, Bankstown and other civil aerodromes taken into account, but Royal Australian Air Force operations at Richmond and even Williamtown had to be considered, as well as the requirements of other airspace users, such as the Army and the Navy. It was in these aspects that the Department of Defence and the Service Departments were drawn into the Committee's discussions, and the Minister for Civil Aviation has stated that the advice of these other Departments was of great assistance to the committee.

Engineering feasibility and order of cost of alternative plans, some 16 in all, at all these locations were considered, as well as the compatibility of such airports with the adjacent communities, access by surface transport, environmental aspects, etc. The 16 different preliminary airport layouts and detailed plans were examined at the following locations: Wyong, Norah Head; Wyong, Warnervale; Somersby; Richmond; Badgery's Creek; Fleurs; Marsden Park; Long Point; Lucas Heights; Wattamolla, National Park; and Duffy's Forest. As a result of all these considerations, the Committee was able to discard a number of locations and end up with 4 that it could not reject or place in order of preference without extensive consultation with the Government of New South Wales, together with detailed surveys and other technical economic and operational investigations in depth. These locations are: Duffy's Forest; Richmond; Somersby; Wattamolla. Duffy's Forest could not be developed for use by international aircraft, whereas the other 3 sites appeared to be suitable for both domestic and international services.

Many honourable members would have heard the suggestion made from time to time that rather than bring international air services to an airport within driving distance of Sydney^ a more distant airport at Dubbo, Narromine or places even much further away from Sydney might be used. On this basis domestic services would connect that airport with Sydney, and perhaps other capital cities. Such a proposal is not compatible with the demand for fast airline connections between the major cities of the world. For instance, one Boeing 747 carries enough passengers when fully laden and landing at a remote airport to call for 10 Fokker Friendship type aircraft to transfer its passengers to their capital city destinations. Furthermore, the Committee clearly established that for domestic air services alone at Sydney, 2 airports will be required in the not distant future. The suggestion is, therefore, not considered applicable in meeting the airport requirements under consideration.

Since receiving the report, it has been necessary for the Department of Civil Aviation to study very carefully in its own right as the Department with the ultimate responsibility the recommendations of the interdepartmental committee, particularly in connection with the alternative site for the extension of the present airport. Furthermore, the Minister for Civil Aviation decided that he should acquaint himself with the various locations investigated and discussed in the report. Since then he has personally inspected many of the proposed sites where it was thought a new airport might be located.

The Minister also decided that he should examine current trends in airport planning and equipment becoming available overseas prior to placing the committee's report before the Government. The growth and early experience in the operation of jumbo jets and the impending introduction of other wide-bodied aircraft, as well as the probable use of supersonic aircraft in the near future and the possible introduc tion of VSTOL and STOL aircraft, introduce new considerations in airport planning. He was therefore fortunate that the opportunity to inspect and discuss some 20 major airports in Europe and the United States was open to him during his recent visit overseas to attend the International Civil Aviation Organisation's Assembly in Vienna. These investigations overseas confirmed an earlier impression that other countries too are experiencing major problems in providing new airports to serve large cities.

As the Minister has mentioned on prior occasions, New York and London are but 2 cases where the site of new airports within a reasonable distance of these cities involves great difficulties. Many honourable members will be aware of the fairly recent decisions to establish a third airport for London at Foulness, 50 miles east of that city. It has been estimated that this new airport will cost up to $l,500m. I might add, too, that London's Gatwick airport is 27 miles from the city, while others worthy of mention in this context are Rome airport, 20 miles from the city, Washington airport, 27 miles from the city and San Francisco airport, 14 miles from the city. Quite apart from the aspects I have mentioned, the very important interests of local communities, environmental factors and the very great cost involved in a second airport for Sydney, require that this project must be most carefully considered and all available viewpoints brought to bear upon it before any decisions are taken.

The committee recommended that the remaining investigations leading up to the selection of the most suitable site should be made by a joint Commonwealth-State committee. The Commonwealth has adopted this recommendation and following several discussions the Minister for Civil Aviation has had with the New South Wales Government, I am now able to say that the proposed joint committee will be set up quickly. Terms of reference have been agreed upon and the final stages of the work will begin quickly and be concluded as soon as possible. Briefly, the terms of reference of the committee will be:

(a)   To make recommendations to the respective governments on the siting of a second airport to serve

Sydney together with the respective roles of the existing airport and the new airport, addressing itself mainly to the following alternative sites: Richmond and Somersby, but without necessarily restricting itself to these locations if the committee considers that other locations merit detailed consideration.

(b)   In considering the alternatives, the committee is to take into account all the relevant factors, including operational, technical, financial and environmental considerations, capacity and accessibility by surface transport.

(c)   A cost benefit evaluation of alternative proposals for the siting and role of a second airport and of proposals for the development of the existing airport will be initiated by the Commonwealth. The evaluation will be undertaken in close co-operation with the committee and the report on the evaluation will be furnished to the committee. The committee shall take into account the results of the evaluation and will make the evaluation report available to the respective governments in conjunction with the committee's report and recommendations.

(d)   The committee is authorised to consult interested Commonwealth and State departments and organisations and to call for the views of other interested bodies, such as the airlines, local authorities and community organisations, to assist in its deliberations.

Speaking generally on these terms of reference, it will have been noted that the interdepartmental committee found itself unable to decide between 4 final sites or to place these in order of preference. The Commonwealth Government has decided that 2 of these sites, Richmond and Somersby, should be considered in priority above the others and has directed the joint committee to operate accordingly. If the committee wish to evaluate further sites, the Commonwealth will not object. However, the Commonwealth's view is that, for a variety of reasons, Duffy's Forest and Wattamolla are neither desirable nor satisfactory sites and it hopes that a quick determination between Richmond and Somersby can be made.

The work of the interdepartmental committee was based on preliminary information about each location, lt will be necessary now in consultation with the State of New South Wales to develop firmer proposals after careful study surveys are made in each area. From the information so obtained, more exact operational and engineering planning will be possible, leading to better estimates of construction quantities and costs. It will be appreciated that access to the airport, a matter for the State authorities, is a matter of essential importance if the new airport is to serve the community adequately.

The capital cost of the airport and associated facilities is expected to run into several hundred million dollars. The interdepartmental committee recommended that the Commonwealth Government should engage consultants, expert in this field, to carry out a comprehensive cost-benefit evaluation of the alternative proposals including those for the development of Mascot. This will allow a very thorough assessment to be made of comparative costs. Such an economic analysis of the whole airport situation for Sydney will be available to the Commonwealth-State committee to take into account along with other important considerations. The Commonwealth has agreed with the recommendations and expressed the hope that scope might be found to use Australian consultants in conjunction with the overseas consultants who will be needed as principals.

It is difficult at this stage to determine how long these further inquiries leading up to a recommendation for the siting of a second airport will take. We are well aware of the need for the earliest possible decision but equally well aware of the importance and cost of this whole question and the need for it to be fully considered from all points of view. The Government is aiming to resolve the matter as quickly as it can, but an estimate of time is not possible with any reasonable accuracy at this stage, and any undertaking given may therefore be misleading. However, the Minister for Civil Aviation will ensure that this task is given the highest priority with the object of it being completed as early as possible and the results reported to both governments.

We are very conscious, too, that in matters such as this there is a very broad community interest involved in addition to the detailed civil aviation considerations. The interests of local communities are very important and these will be properly taken into account so that the overall balance of public interest may be fairly and properly assessed. It will be competent for the joint Commonwealth-State committee to seek and also receive in writing any objections or additional proposals or information that they judge should be taken into account or would help their work.

The committee will consist of members from the Commonwealth, the Department of Civil Aviation - whose member will also be the Chairman - and the departments of the Treasury, Works and Interior. The State of New South Wales will provide the remaining 3 from those departments it believes have the most to contribute. The committee will be free to draw on others as required. The Department of Defence, for instance, would have the right to appoint an observer.

In conclusion, I would like to add that the Commonwealth Government looks forward to working with the State of New South Wales On this national project. Over the many months of investigations and deliberations we have been particularly impressed by the ready assistance and interest of the State Government in this important r -itier. 1 consider this to be an historic t. pie of Commonwealth-State cd-operation which will assist us all to carry out quickly the final phase of the investigation leading to the choice of a site for Sydney's sc.ond airport which, in due course, will be worthy of that great city. I present the following papers

Sydney Airport Proposals - Ministerial Statement. 15 September 1971.

Motion (by Mr Chipp) proposed:

That the Home take note of the paper.

Suggest corrections