RAWSA’s response to Western Sydney Airport EIS

The Residents against Western Sydney Airport have weighed into the recent EIS results, released last week by the Minister for Urban Infrastructure, Paul Fletcher.

Airport protesters:  Geoff Bennett, Jenny Dollin, Ros Davidson and Bob Treasure.

Airport protesters: Geoff Bennett, Jenny Dollin, Ros Davidson and Bob Treasure.

RAWSA president Peter Dollin said the group had attended the government’s briefing session last Friday to question the public officials on the publication of the final Environmental Impact Statement into the airport proposal.

“In a nutshell, what we got from the briefing session was uncertainty and contradictions,” Mr Dollin said. 

“The major key to the impacts are flight paths, however, we were advised that a comprehensive airspace planning and design process has not been undertaken and it would take several years before they would do so. What the EIS shows are only indicative best guess flight paths.”

Mr Dollin said the event followed “a gratuitous and disingenuous display by the Federal Infrastructure Minister, Mr Paul Fletcher, earlier in the week who went on a media blitz to sell the project using selective data to dress up the positives and ignore the many negatives”.

The group asked the officials “how they can reconcile the uncertainty of flight paths with the confidence they express in the EIS stating “the airport will not have a significant impact on the World Heritage values … or result in attributes of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area being lost.”

“We were not convinced with their reasoning which was that planes would be 5,000 metres above the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area given that future flight paths have not been designed and the area is a mere 7 kilometres from the airport site.

“We found it contradictory that the EIS states that “emissions of nitrogen dioxide and ozone will increase health risks, particularly when taking into account background road traffic” but it is happy to state “health risks would be within acceptable levels”.

Mr Dollin said the final EIS read like an advocacy document – excusing negative impacts.

“For example, they acknowledge “noise impacts increase the likelihood of sleep disturbance, cardiovascular disease and learning and cognitive development in children” then they dismiss that impact, by saying “however such impacts would be confined to areas around the airport site”.

“We all know that aircraft noise impacts spread far and wide and are not confined to the airport site. Sydney Airports Community Forum fields daily noise complaints from all parts of Sydney including the Blue Mountains.”

“The EIS says that during night flights residential areas and noise sensitive facilities will be avoided and head-to-head operations will be used. Again, how can they confidently predict that when actual flight paths will not be known for many years?”

RAWSA questioned the officials on their noise modelling and whether they acknowledged that Blue Mountains have a higher sensitivity than urban communities because of our lower ambient background noise environment.

“Whilst they did acknowledge this verbally, they confirmed, worryingly, that the sensitivity of Blue Mountains dwellers was not taken into account in the EIS.”

RAWSA questioned officials over why the full burden of growing travel demand had to fall upon aviation only, especially with more than 70 per cent of current air travel in Australia being domestic east coast.

“The officials acknowledged the alternate and complementary options of high speed rail, however, it was clear that the federal government is not interested in such ideas which we feel is short sighted, simplistic and not innovative at all”.

The environment minister will decide on the EIS by November this year.

RAWSA urges interested residents to contact the minister Josh Frydenburg at josh.frydenburg.mp@aph.gov.au and MP for Macquarie, Susan Templeman, at susan.templeman.mp@aph.gov.au.