When Big Media Aren’t the Biggest

It seems a near certainty that a second Sydney airport will be built soon. If only they could agree on a site!

The recently released Joint Study on Aviation Capacity in the Sydney Region [PDF] proposed Badgerys Creek once again as the best option. However, Transport Minister Anthony Albanese quickly ruled that out. Instead, Wilton – the report’s ‘second best’ option – seems the clear favourite. The town has clear access to the Hume Highway, and is quite close to the main southern railway line. However, it is also near water catchment areas (ironically, the site is identified in the report by the names given to its two Sydney Water dams) and flights would take off and land over Wollongong’s Northern Suburbs. The proposal has alarmed residents of the Macarthur area. Wollondilly Shire’s Mayor has also spoken out against the proposal. The Wilton airport would be inside his Council area.

Further up the hill away from Sydney, the Southern Highland News rejoiced at the suggestion, hoping it could bring economic opportunity for the region. But residents in the Highlands should be careful what they wish for. The Government ruled out Badgerys Creek based on local opposition, and if there is enough opposition to Wilton, they could backflip again. In the report, the Southern Highlands (defined as “Mittagong, Moss Vale, Berrima and surrounds” on page 186) was identified as one of the seven most preferred sites. If enough of a Highlands-based support for the Wilton site is developed, the government could well assume it might be wanted closer to home. After all, the same road and rail advantages apply, and the airport itself could be built further away from dams. Sites that spring to mind include land west of Mittagong beyond the existing airport, around Yerrinbool, or even between Berrima and Moss Vale (right next to the mostly under-utilised economic enterprise zone).

For what it’s worth, I still think a Canberra airport expansion is the best option, provided it is accompanied by a high speed rail link to Sydney.

What are your thoughts?