Blue Mountains mayor to test unity over second airport opposition

Blue Mountains City Council’s unanimous opposition to Badgerys Creek airport will be tested this month, following criticism by two councillors.

Blue Mountains mayor Mark Greenhill will bring the matter to a head at the January 31 council meeting when he will ask council to recommit to the anti-airport campaign and “our position of opposition to an airport at Badgerys Creek”.

Under pressure: Blue Mountains mayor Mark Greenhill will test council's stance on a second Sydney airport at Badgerys Creek at the January 31 council meeting.

Under pressure: Blue Mountains mayor Mark Greenhill will test council's stance on a second Sydney airport at Badgerys Creek at the January 31 council meeting.

Liberal Party councillors Brendan Christie and Kevin Schreiber criticised council’s $130,000 campaign against the airport in a Daily Telegraph article before Christmas. The article did not mention that Cr Christie voted in favour of spending money on the anti-airport campaign in November 2015. Cr Schreiber was not on council at the time.

“As you also know, recently two councillors have taken issue with our no airport campaign and expenditure in the media,” the mayor posted on his Facebook page on December 30.

“Given that our position regarding the campaign has now been challenged from within, it is appropriate that I test the numbers in open council.”

Cr Greenhill said he was “surprised to see the story in the Telegraph because both councillors have opposed the airport in the past”.

“At the first meeting of the new council both of them supported the Glenbrook community meeting. Cr Christie asked me in his absence to tell the meeting of his opposition to the airport. Cr Schreiber, prior to his election, nominated to be a member of the mayoral reference group which helps organise our anti-airport strategy. At those meetings he never indicated any support for an airport.

“I believe the community will react strongly to this and will find it hard to forgive. If the councillors are supportive of the airport why didn’t they say so before the election?”

But Cr Christie said his stance on the airport “is consistent with the position I took to the election”. 

“And now the Blaxland merge point issue is resolved it's time to move forward with a positive agenda,” he said.

Cr Christie said with support from both major parties at state and federal level, people needed to accept that the “airport is going to happen”.

“Only through a brave acceptance of the new political reality can we achieve the best results for the people who live here. We need to end the gotcha-style politicking of councillor infighting and embark on a collaborative approach between the community, business and government to make the most of an airport which will arrive in only a few short years.”

Cr Christie said he would move his own matter of urgency about the airport at the council meeting.

“We need an alternative to the continuing campaign of negativity,” he said. 

Cr Kevin Schreiber said “at no stage did the mayor ask my position to the best of my memory”.

“I made a number of suggestions to help. One was to ask for a fast train to the western suburbs with a few stops on the way to Kingsford Smith Airport.” 

He said “the main trouble [with the airport plan] then was the merge points over Blaxland – now in the second EIS this is not going to happen”.

“With both major parties supporting the new airport we should be in there trying to get a better outcome for all the Mountains with jobs for our youth and grip to improve our tourist facilities, such as the master plan for Katoomba and an information office at Blackheath.”