Transcript - Doorstop - Sydney

CATHERINE KING, MINISTER: Hi. I’m Catherine King. I’m the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government.

Well, today the Government has released the Environmental Impact Statement for Western Sydney International Airport. We released the preliminary flight paths and a noise tool earlier this year, because the Government wants people to have as much information as possible to inform themselves about the changes that are coming with Western Sydney International Airport.

This is an incredible economic opportunity for Western Sydney. We’re going to see lots of jobs. Fifty-six per cent of the airport is already complete, but we also know that with that comes change, and those new flight paths, and the EIS process we’ve launched today really does provide people the opportunity to understand what the impact will be on them, and provide opportunity for submissions to come in to the Government as part of that planning process to see whether there’s any other changes we need to make.

The EIS goes through things like noise, environmental impact, impact in terms of, more broadly, about how the interaction of the Western Sydney International Airport flight paths will interact with Kingsford Smith, Bankstown, Camden and obviously Richmond airports.

It is a really complex air space over greater Sydney, and I do want to say the technical experts who’ve been working on this now for many years have done a great job, but of course, we know that we don’t know everything. And that’s really what this EIS is about, is making sure people have as much information as possible, make a submission so that we can see, where we can, make sure that we are ameliorating the impact on people as much as possible.

Of course, that has to come, safety has to come as the first principle in any changes that we make in this area. Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: What kind of support is going to be offered to people who are impacted by the flight paths?

CATHERINE KING: Well, the first thing is that part of the EIS is the Australian Government’s plan for noise insulation for those properties that are most affected. Obviously, they will be closest to the airport, to the runways themselves, where arrivals and where take-offs and landings are occurring, so where those areas are most affected, it contains the draft proposal that the Government’s putting for noise insulation, and potential acquisitions, which we, of course, would like to avoid, but they may be part of the process that we need to undertake.

JOURNALIST: How much in this draft has been budgeted for that?

CATHERINE KING: Well, certainly in terms of the previous Government, there is funding set aside in the contingency reserve for that, but really at this stage what we’re doing is putting out the policy principles under which the Government is investigating or is intending to look at issues around noise insulation.

JOURNALIST: Sound insulation is a pretty common thing to offer residents who are near an airport. But this is a 24/7 airport. Do you think you’re going above and beyond?

CATHERINE KING: So, we have in this – so what you’ll notice, because this is a 24/7 airport without a curfew, because also if you look at the area where Western Sydney Airport is, of course it’s a pretty quiet area, it’s largely been farming land for a long period of time. So we have been far more – we’ve had a broader policy in terms of noise insulation than we have had previously.

But again, at this stage, we’ve got a draft EIS, it is out for consultation, we’ve put the noise tool out there, so you can put your residence in to have a look at what the potential impacts are over the longer term of this airport on where you live, and also on where your businesses are, and work with the Government to try and see how we can mitigate as much of the impact as we possibly can, bearing in mind this is a complex air space that we’re dealing with.

JOURNALIST: For some people, for some, this airport will negatively affect their property values. Now if they wanted to sell their house, would the Government buy it?

CATHERINE KING: That is not something that an Environmental Impact Statement will look at. It certainly does look at whether there is an economic impact on that area. Most of the evidence is that if there is a negative impact it’s recovered pretty quickly.

JOURNALIST: You mentioned EIS isn’t designed to evaluate that. But will the plans for the EIS inform a future policy position from this Government?

CATHERINE KING: So the EIS is part of the formal planning process required for the opening of Western Sydney International Airport in 2026. What it does is, is looks at the impact on the environment, looks at the impact on noise, looks at the impact on health, looks at the impact overall on the development of the airport on the air space across greater Sydney, not just greater Western Sydney as well.

That’s what the EIS process will do, and I encourage people to have a look at it. It’s open until 31 January for public exhibition. There will be community consultations held through communities. We’ve already done a first round of that when we put the preliminary flight paths out. We’ve had over 1,500 people to community sessions. The noise tool has been downloaded over 400 times, so I know people will be getting on today, having a look, I’d encourage them to engage with that Environmental Impact Statement process.

JOURNALIST: The EIS also mentions how people not in western Sydney will be impacted ‑‑


JOURNALIST: ‑‑ because you have incredibly complicated flight paths over greater Sydney.


JOURNALIST: How will flight paths at other airports be changed, and what impact will that have on people in those areas who are under those flight paths?

CATHERINE KING: Yeah, so that’s a very big question. So as I said, it’s a really big and complex piece of work to introduce new flight paths into Western Sydney. It is a very complex air space already. We have Kingsford Smith Airport, we’ve got Richmond Air Base, we’ve got Camden and Bankstown, and so the EIS does look at how and what changes will need to be made to flights coming in and out of Kingsford Smith, in and out of Richmond, in and out of Bankstown and Camden as well.

And so I encourage people across Sydney to have a look to see whether where you live is affected, it’s why the noise tool is there, and as I’ve said, the principles under which the design of this air space has been undertaken, they’ve been around for a long time. Safety first, has to be first, but trying to make sure we mitigate the impact, particularly over residences as much as we possibly can has been one of the principles that all of the air space design has been undertaken under.

JOURNALIST: These changes to existing – sorry, to flight paths from existing airports, if my house is impacted from that change, do I have any recourse under this EIS?

CATHERINE KING: Again, this is a planning process, the EIS is part of the planning process, so as people would be familiar with, under a planning process, if you put – lodge an objection, lodge submissions, then we need to consider those when we go forward into the final decision around the flight paths.

So this is what this process is about. This is the opportunity for members of the community to engage with the process, to put submissions in. We’ll have technical experts out in the field where you can ask questions of the people who’ve actually designed these flight paths. They will be out in the field, so you can ask questions of them, as to "Why did you make this decision? Why is the flight this way?"

As I’ve said, what we’ve done, we’ve had to have safety first, but the next principle has been trying to mitigate as much as we possibly can, the impact on residences. We change what is a really complex picture right the way over Sydney.

JOURNALIST: What other measures are being used to mitigate some of the effects, for people who aren’t necessarily most impacted, but nonetheless will be impacted by the flight paths?

CATHERINE KING: Well, the entire design of the flight paths has been to try and minimise the amount of flights over residential areas, and that’s really a design principle that’s been put in place in the first place.

So the EIS process, what that does, it provides the opportunity to look at, you know, what’s actually happening in your residence, in your neighbourhood, and what the impacts might be, to engage with the technical experts who’ve designed the air space, and to put submissions to the Government as to what you think should change, or what you think should be included into the [indistinct].

JOURNALIST: Okay. We’ve known about this project for a long time, the idea of this project’s been kicking around for decades. But during that time, areas out west have been heavily developed. Do you think it was a bad idea – how do I put this – don’t you think heavily developing those areas was a bad idea and was always going to lead to negative outcomes for some?

CATHERINE KING: I think that, you know, Badgerys Creek been touted as a site for a potential airport for a long period of time. We are now here. This airport is scheduled to open in 2026, which is why we’re putting – put the preliminary flight paths out, why we’re doing the Environmental Impact Statement process now, to make sure this airport is ready for 2026.

I think it is important that, you know, it’s a big greenfield site, and you don’t often get to do that with airports. It is important, particularly going forward that in land development that occurs around the airport, people really need to know what the impact of that development is, and need to make sure that they’re looking at where the flight paths are and where land development is occurring, and that’s a matter for both local councils and state governments to take into consideration.

JOURNALIST: Thanks for taking my questions, minister.

CATHERINE KING: You are most welcome.