Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Options for Sydney's Second Airport

Options for Sydney's Second Airport

Advice on legislation or legal policy issues contained in this paper is provided for use in parliamentary debate and for related parliamentary purposes. This paper is not professional legal opinion.
Briefing Paper No. 04/2001 by Stewart Smith

The need for and potential site of a second airport in Sydney has been the topic of debate for governments and communities for some considerable time. Recent Federal Government decisions to upgrade Bankstown Airport and to delay the development of a second airport at Badgery’s Creek have renewed interest in the issue. This Paper looks at the operations of the airports currently in use in the Sydney basin. It also reviews the arguments concerning the need for a new second airport and proposed sites.

Since the 1940s the Federal Government has been considering the airport needs of the Sydney basin, and whether a second airport should be built. In February 1986 the Commonwealth Government announced that Badgery’s Creek had been selected as the site for Sydney’s second major airport. It contained over 240 properties which were acquired by the Commonwealth between 1986 and 1991 at a cost of $155 million (page 6).

In September 1997 a draft environmental impact statement on a second airport at Badgery’s Creek was released, based on an operating level of 245,000 aircraft movements a year, with the number of passengers approaching 30 million (pages 7-9).

The existing and planned facilities at Sydney Airport are considered adequate to fulfil its current planned capacity of about 353,000 aircraft movements and 30 million passenger movements per year. As at the end of the financial year ending June 2000, Sydney Airport handled 23.2 million passenger movements and 290,019 aircraft movements.

The EIS considered a range of alternatives to a second airport, including upgrading Bankstown Airport and upgrading the capacity of Sydney Airport. Independent analysis concurred with the EIS that that sufficient evidence was provided to conclude that none of the identified strategic alternatives to a second Sydney airport would, in isolation, satisfy the objective of providing adequate airport capacity to help meet Sydney’s long-term commercial aviation demands (pages 9-13).

On 13 December 2000 the Federal Government announced its decision on the future airport needs of Sydney. The Government considered that Sydney Airport was comfortably handling its growing level of air traffic and concluded that it would be premature to build a second major airport in the city. Instead, the Government decided to make Bankstown Airport available as an overflow airport for Sydney (page 13).

The decision attracted a lot of attention and criticism. No work had been done to assess and officially inform the public about aircraft noise and other environmental ramifications of the upgrade of Bankstown Airport and delaying the construction of a second airport. It was left to the media and media commentators to interpret how the distribution of aircraft noise in Sydney may change (pages 14-16).

Whilst the NSW ALP expressed strong opposition to an upgrade of Bankstown Airport, the NSW Coalition parties noted that regional airline access to Sydney Airport was guaranteed at reasonable prices (pages 16-17).