Independent review confirms Western Sydney Airport EIS just won't fly

26 Nov 2015

Blue Mountains Mayor, Cr Mark Greenhill, said, “While Blue Mountains City Council is opposed to a second Sydney airport generally, an independent review of the Western Sydney Airport Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) released today confirms that the draft EIS is grossly inadequate and shows a complete disregard for the people of the Blue Mountains and Western Sydney as well as the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area”. 

“We all knew it was a rush job and this review confirms that. The last EIS took 2.5 years to complete yet this one was fast tracked in just 8 months. 
The lack of detail provided in the draft EIS is astounding. It’s just not good enough and quite frankly the people of the Blue Mountains and Western Sydney deserve better” he added.
The wide ranging review was commissioned by 11 Western Sydney councils coordinated by the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC) to assist in the preparation of their submissions to the draft EIS. The independent review was conducted by a consortium led by WSP/Parsons Brinckerhoff.  The review looked at: aviation planning (flight paths), noise (overflight noise and ground based noise and vibration), traffic and transport, air quality, human health impacts, social and economic, biodiversity, surface water and groundwater, impact on the Blue Mountains and greenhouse gas.
“The review identified a high level of uncertainty at every turn”, said the Mayor. “For such a significant proposal affecting the liveability of Western Sydney for the next Century, it begs a number of questions. Why, for example,
- are there no limits on noise impacts of airport operations;
- are residential impacts not discussed or mitigation measures not quantified;
- is consideration of long term future growth and land use limited;
- is there no testing of flight path options; and
- are impacts on the World Heritage Area not considered in greater detail“.
Further, the draft EIS only applies to the first 5 years of operation of Stage 1 and predicted passenger levels are questionable.”
“This proposal has aeroplanes flying over people’s homes 24 hours a day.  The Australian Government has an obligation to provide comprehensive information. We expected a thorough and detailed EIS and nothing less”, the Mayor said.
“Alternatives to the merge point over the lower Blue Mountains and all flight path options should have been explored. The community deserves to have every flight path option rigorously tested and considered – particularly given the airport is proposed to be operational 24 hours a day.”
Best practice would have been to conduct a full review of flight paths across the Sydney Basin now – not wait for the development of a second runway” he added.
Air quality at both the local and the regional level in the long term was also identified as a key concern with levels exceeding acceptable standards for NO2 (nitrogen dioxide), PM2.5 and PM10 (particulate matter) and Ozone, for example.
“Air quality is already an issue of concern in Western Sydney. This airport must not adversely impact on the health of our community” said the Mayor.
Of major concern was also the lack of a detailed assessment of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area or proper consideration of noise and amenity on its wilderness values.  The draft EIS used a standard noise tool which only looked at overall levels of noise rather than take into consideration the potential impacts and context such as the level of intrusiveness of frequent noise in natural soundscapes.
“The World Heritage Area is a quiet and contemplative place with very low levels of natural noise”, said the Mayor. “This is one of the criteria which UNESCO took into consideration when granting World Heritage Status 15 years ago.
“Tourism is a key driver for the regional economy of the Blue Mountains.  Literally millions of people from across the globe visit the Blue Mountains and World Heritage Area every year.  They come because of its unparalleled natural beauty and serenity.  If you take this away you take away one of the key reasons for visiting. It is likely to have a significant and detrimental impact on our economy.  The report glossed over the economic impacts for the region.  Any economic benefits derived from the airport realised for some areas of Western Sydney must not come at the cost of another.” Mayor Greenhill said.
“This is a project of national importance which will have significant impacts on the community right across the Western Sydney region and the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.  It’s vital that we get the planning right.  We only get one chance at this so it needs to be done properly.
“I call on the Australian Government to take the necessary time to undertake a comprehensive EIS and allow a reasonable opportunity for the community to review all of the information including that which relates to the World Heritage Area”, the Mayor concluded.

Click here for the full Independent review of the draft EIS

Click here for WSROC media release 26 November 2015 

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