The cultural and political wars that dog airport developments in this country are on display once more, this time at Canberra Airport.

There is an article and discussion on this on the Crikey subscriber site today and through its email bulletin, but the key elements have been apparent ever since Victoria decided in the 60s to replace Essendon with Tullamarine for its major airport.

Once there is a degree of certainty about the boundaries of the airport development land values fall anywhere near or under the likely flight paths, and holdings are then acquired or refinanced or repackaged by astute interests for housing or industrial development purposes.

This happened at Tullamarine, but the Victorian government held the line against earlier protests by some of those who bought properties built close to that airport to impose a night time jet curfew or introduce other restrictions.

It also happened after the declaration of a green fields site for a second Sydney airport at Badgerys Creek, in 1986, except that the urban sprawl of the city advanced on and consumed much of them, and political paralysis prevented the project from continuing.

And at Tralee, near Queanbeyan, an attractive slice of land which is a conduit for existing noise reduction flight paths using Canberra Airport is also the subject of a rezoning proposal for housing developments that would almost certainly lead to curfew restrictions that would shut down plans to make it a major air freight hub taking pressure off Sydney Airport.

The housing-jet magnetism is at work as strongly as ever.

Sydney will lose its business capital credentials unless it fixes its air transport problems with another airport in its metropolitan basin, and Canberra cannot achieve its tourism and enterprise development potential without using its existing airport as efficiently as possible.

And this is also true of the vexed but important issues of improving rail services as well as airline services where this can attract and reward private capital, given the implausibility if not undesirability of such investments being made and administered by governments.

As someone who lives within long distance commuting distance of Canberra, and who has reported on transport issues since the end of the ocean passenger liner age in this country, I have also taken up Queanbeyan City Council’s invitation to comment on the rezoning by December 22.

Queanbeyan City Council

Comment: South Tralee Development

  • The development imposes the risk of significant restrictions on the future expansion of Canberra Airport in the form of curfews and noise related capacity restrictions during normal hours of operation.
  • Canberra Airport has the potential to become a 24 hour cargo hub serving the greater Sydney area and Illawarra as well the ACT, Queanbeyan and nascent new communities in its immediate vicinity.
  • It already hosts late night and early morning passenger services which are an indication of future growth at night in RPT activities at the airport.
  • Developments in airline business models and medium sized new technology airliners also support its use for international operations to centres in SE Asia, China, Japan, Korea and Pacific states from the middle of the next decade.
  • Without competitive and convenient air services growth areas in regional Australia cannot achieve their full potential, or exploit shortfalls in such access in crowded major city airports, notably at Sydney Airport in relation to Canberra and Queanbeyan.
  • The maximisation of employment opportunities in Queanbeyan cannot be achieved if operations at Canberra airport are prevented from expanding to their greatest potential.
  • Any short term gain from the Tralee development thus comes at the cost of reduced benefits for Queanbeyan in the medium term.
  • Queanbeyan has other options for housing developments which would permit it to have that cake, and also the one provided by the growth of Canberra Airport.
  • The only way the average age of populations in centres like Queanbeyan can be reduced, with a concurrent lessening of demands on community support programs is by capturing longer term employment opportunities.
  • More people in work means healthier community finances and less dependency and demographic stagnation.
  • Queanbeyan has a very significant opportunity to achieve such desirable outcomes by supporting the future expansion of Canberra Airport, including its development of international and air freight operations on a 24 hour, 365 days a year basis.
  • I have no business links with any of the parties involved in these issues.
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