In this opinion piece, infrastructure minister CATHERINE KING outlines why she thinks it’s important to consult the community about proposed flights at Western Sydney International airport:
Airports are essential infrastructure to modern economies, but we cannot pretend that they do not have an impact on communities near them.
As a government, what we must do is work with communities to ensure that impact on people’s lives is minimised as far as possible.
With the construction of Western Sydney International Airport, we are doing that through the early release of the preliminary flight paths and extending the time the community has to respond to the environmental impact statement as long as possible.
These flight paths have not been designed by politicians, they have been created by a world leading team of experts This team has been working within a set of 12 Airspace Design Principles, which were developed under the Coalition Government in 2016.
These principles maintain safety as a top priority but also seek to minimise aircraft overflight and noise impacts on residential areas, to the maximum extent possible and particularly overnight, as well as the impacts on natural and visually sensitive areas, including the Blue Mountains.
In designing these flight paths, the team have to work within an incredibly complex airspace that already includes aircraft operating from RAAF Richmond, Camden, Bankstown and, of course, Kingsford Smith Airport.
The other obvious factor determining where the planes have to go is that the runway has already been laid.
It’s a matter of physics and aviation safety that aircraft have to operate in a straight line towards runways on final approach and takeoff.
This isn’t to say that these flight paths are set in stone.
The EIS is an important part of the process to ensure that community feedback can be used to refine the development of the preliminary flight paths for WSI, as well as the social and economic impact assessment.
People are also able to provide feedback on the draft noise insulation and property acquisition policy.
We’re not hiding the impacts – we want as many people to have their say as possible.
That’s why we launched an interactive aircraft overflight noise tool earlier in June to show the proposed WSI flight paths and aircraft noise impacts, and held community information and feedback sessions over the last few months.
Since then, over 250,000 people have visited the online tool to find out more about the flight paths and nearly 1500 people have attended information sessions and stalls and spoken one-on-one with the department.
We have now extended the EIS process as long as we can, through to January 31 next year, giving people plenty of time to get their submission together.
This is a major, city shaping project, building Western Sydney a state of the art, international gateway with direct transport links into the heart of Sydney.
More than 4300 direct jobs have already been created by the construction of the airport, with more than 11,000 direct and indirect jobs expected to be created throughout the construction period, half of them going to Western Sydney locals.