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Thursday, 11 November 1971
Page: 3405

Mr COHEN (Robertson) - As Somersby, which is a possible site for Sydney's second international airport, is in my electorate I would like to say a few words on the estimates for the Department of Civil Aviation. On Monday of this week I held a meeting in my office, at which a number of very prominent members of the community were present, to discuss the calling of a public meeting so that the people of the Central Coast could express a collective view about the possible siting of the airport at Somersby. Personally, I am opposed to the siting of the airport in this area, but 1 felt it was important that the people in the community should be able to express their views on the proposal. I have no ideological view on this question. If the community wants the airport in this area, then I shall support the proposal. When I have been asked to express a personal view on this question I have stated quite clearly that I oppose the proposal. However, I have to be guided by what people tell me in letters and what they say to me. So far 1 have gained the impression that the overwhelming majority of people on the Central Coast are opposed to the siting of this airport at Somersby.

I do not want to go into the details. I have been to meetings at which I have said that personally I am opposed to the proposal to site this airport at Somersby, and the people have stood and clapped - not for me but for my view on this matter. At the meeting which 1 called on Monday of this week the Central Coast citrus growers were represented by their secretary, Mr Fred Walpole. Also at the meeting were Mr Eric Hatley, the President of the Central Coast Trades and Labour Council; Mr Bill Hecker, the President of the Gosford Chamber of Commerce; Mr Keeble, the Secretary of the Gosford Shire Assembly, representing 24 progress associations which unanimously oppose the proposal; and Mr Peter Pickover, the tourist officer for the district. Mr Walpole made some very interesting comments. He represents a very viable industry on Mangrove Mountain - right where the possible site of the airport is. He said that already property sales have been affected. He knows already of 2 proposed sales of properties on Mangrove Mountain which have fallen through.

The citrus industry and the tourist industry on the Central Coast are the largest 2 industries in the area. A large number of people depend upon them for their income. It has been estimated that at least 2,000 employees are engaged in these industries. At a rough estimate, the siting of an airport in this area could cut production in the citrus industry by 23 per cent. At the present time this area produces I2i per cent of Australia's citrus and 35 per cent of Australia's lemons. If production in this industry is cut by 25 per cent it will affect the throughput of the processing factories, the throughput of the packing houses and all the other allied industries which are involved with the citrus industry. It could be the beginning of the end of the citrus industry in this area. If Jusfrute Ltd, or one of the other companies, found that production had to be cut by 25 per cent, it might not pay the company to continue to produce in that area. I hope that the people who are making the decision on the siting of this new international airport will keep in mind not just the noise and pollution factors associated with an airport but also the very real effect which it could have on the citrus industry.

At the meeting which I called last Monday I asked each person representing a large body of people to express their view.

I, together with Mr Keith O'Connell, the State MLA for Gosford, have called a public meeting for 5th December, and notices of the meeting are already going out. I have here a copy of the Central Coast 'Express'. The newspaper has kindly given a great deal of publicity to the meeting to be held on 5th December. I am just expressing the views of the other people who were represented at the meeting which I called last Monday; these are not my views. Mr Eric Hatley, the President of the Central Coast Traders and Labour Council, who represents some 22,000 trade unionists on the Central Coast, said that they are very concerned about this matter. A few problems are being experienced in the rutile mining industry on the Central Coast. A number of people engaged in this industry may be put off work, and they will be anxious to obtain other work in the area. 1 mentioned in a previous speech that an industrial complex had been planned in the Somersby area at Kariong. We now find that this plan will be suspended by the State Planning Authority which will not release this land from its rural land classification and classify it as industrial land until the matter is cleared up. It could be that the industrial complex has gone forever. The last time I spoke on this matter I read to the House 3 letters I had received, one from Hesdols and Co. Pty Ltd, one from Ronson Pty Ltd and one from H. J. Ashton Co. Pty Ltd, a bookbinding company, all of which would have been functioning with factories in this complex and employing 300 to 500 people right now. There are many other industries which would have come to the area but which will not do so because the land is tied up. Three hundred or 400 jobs would be immediately affected. It is all right saying: 'Yes, it will bring you employment', but it is highly unlikely that we will have any extra employment for at least 5 to 7 years and possibly longer. People in my area do not want work in 5 or 7 years time; they want it within the next 12 months. How much satisfaction will it give them to tell them than in 5 to 6 years time they may be able to get some extra work?

I wrote to the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) and asked a series of questions. I said that I wanted to know what the location of the airport would be, what the flight paths were likely to be, what the noise levels were likely to be, how properties would be affected and what compensation will be paid for properties affected. For instance, how will a man who finds himself right on the site be compensated? Is he to be compensated now or in 10 years time when his property is taken over? He will not be able to sell it. What assistance will be given to local government to provide water, roads and all the other facilities required by an airport? What is the possible pollution level?

The Minister replied that he could not tell me any of these things. It was a nice polite letter. He was kind enough, when I went to see him, to offer to show me the map and where the site was providing I would keep the information confidential. 1 said that in the circumstances I would not look at the map; I did not want any information that I could not pass on to my constituents. I will not enter into a conspiracy of silence. I will not get up at a public meeting and say: 'I know because the Minister has told me but I am afraid I cannot pass it on to you'. A Government member may be prepared to do that but I certainly am not. I understand some of the problems associated with the release of this information. I am not unsympathetic to the problems of announcing it, including the possible property speculation which could result, but I think the way in which people's lives will be affected warrants a quick disclosure of these facts.

Although he suggested it would not be likely that officers from his Department would come to such a meeting to give information, I sent a letter today to the Minister in which I re-issued the invitation. He did say to me that we would see that Mr James Harper, head of the CommonwealthState committee which is investigating the site of the new airport, kept me fully informed about this matter but so far 1 have not had any information at all. The meeting will go ahead. There are critics, including my opponent at the next election, who say we should not have a public meeting until we have more information. This is the 3 card trick. We will get the full information when the decision has been made, and we would then have to hold a public meeting. I am asking people to come along and to express their views on the very scanty information that is available, The Minister can forget any suggestion that we will wait until we get all this information if that information becomes available only when the decision has been made. People who were at the meeting the other day were almost 100 per cent in opposition to the proposal.

Consideration should be given to the great discomfort which this airport would bring to the many thousands of people who come to this area for their retirement. They come there to get away from pollution and noise, with a desire to live in that magnificent area in peace and quiet. The introduction of an airport into that area will have a deleterious effect on the community.

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