Deadline looms - only hours left for communities to have their say on flight paths

Today the people of Western Sydney have a looming deadline overhead, one that will change lives and livelihoods forever.

The lack of transparency and genuine consultation from the Albanese Labor Government for Western Sydney International (WSI) Airport flight paths has been of great concern. In June 2023, Labor Infrastructure Minister Catherine King put out a media release at midnight that showed the new flight path design and launch of the online noise tool, as part of her strategy to keep my community of Lindsay in the dark and avoid scrutiny.

Minister King was not even bothered to come to Penrith and tell us that we would have on average over 220 planes across a 24 hour period, from 18 flight paths traversing the Lindsay electorate. This is the most of any community in Western Sydney. Instead, that morning she spoke to the press on this nationally significant infrastructure project with great local impact to the people here in Western Sydney from a safe distance in her Victorian electorate.

And this is just stage one. The number of flights is set to increase dramatically after the first five years in the long-term planning of operations. From Londonderry to Luddenham and Emu Heights to Colyton, the Lindsay community will have flight paths with hundreds of planes flying altitudes as low as 750 feet and creating noise levels as high as 90 decibels at Twin Creeks. It is hardly surprising she didn’t have the courage to face our community herself with such news.

Minister King employed the same tactic again in October 2023 for the release of the 2023 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) flight paths document, giving my community just three months to wade through an extremely complex and technical paper over thousands of pages long describing what will happen to them. In a similar vein, Minister King did not step foot in Western Sydney for this announcement, yet again putting out a midnight media release.

Significantly, the flight paths in the 2023 EIS are drastically different from the original 2016 EIS. Our community is not a community of flight path experts. You can imagine the dismay when we woke up to the bad news of the Albanese Labor Government’s intention to condense the flight paths across Lindsay and widen the zone of impact to thousands of people. What is happening to my community in Lindsay is not fair. That is why I have been fighting for fair flight paths, because it is not right that we must bear the brunt of impact.

To further this catalogue of strategies in the Minister’s PR toolkit, of the 56 public feedback sessions across Sydney, our Lindsay community only had 4, often during the working week, and at the outset not even in the electorate.

At the very perimeter of the airport is the suburb of Luddenham, which will have aircraft noise as high as 80 decibels or the equivalent of standing next to a hairdryer. Only a handful of houses there, and only under 100 houses in total in the designated sound boundary zone for WSI Airport, will at this stage receive noise mitigation measures. Other issues that locals here and across the electorate raised with me include social and health impacts, as well as environmental concerns. Even though we are set to be the most impacted, our ability to participate in the flight path design debate has been stifled at every turn.

There are other very concerning things happening around the airport under Labor’s watch. Recently, the promised benefits of the impending airport for new jobs, local advanced manufacturing opportunities, and capital investment have seen significant delays because of the go-slow development of the Aerotropolis industrial hub.

In late 2023, the Labor Albanese Government ripped out hundreds of millions of dollars of Federal funding for vital road infrastructure projects in Lindsay that are important to support the increased traffic and transportation needs surrounding the new airport. This includes the Western City Road Transport Development Network, the M7-M12 Interchange, and two station carparks for commuters traveling to their new jobs at the airport and the Aerotropolis. On top of the unfair flight path deal, it seems apparent that our Western Sydney community will not be able to reap the benefits of the airport for some time thanks to the decisions of the Albanese Labor Government.

All this hoodwinking has been exceptionally cunning. We haven’t had much time as a community to digest the new proposed flightpaths. The consultation period went through the tail-end of 2023, as businesses closed and people went on holidays for Christmas and New Year, the school break, and Australia Day. Now we are just one minute to midnight for people to submit their concerns to the Infrastructure Department, with Wednesday 31 January 2024 the final deadline.

I remain absolutely committed to supporting the Western Sydney International Airport for the economic uplift and jobs it will bring to Lindsay and the Western Sydney region. But this does not mean the Lindsay community should accept unfair flight paths that will see us be the most unfairly impacted out of all communities. The Albanese Labor Government clearly doesn’t care about Western Sydney, and that is just not good enough.

If you are impacted by the flight paths, today is your final chance to have your say by making a submission on the 2023 EIS. To make a submission, go to wsiflightpaths.gov.au/make-a-submission/

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