Where should Sydney's second airport go?
Canberra, Badgery's Creek or Wilton? There's mixed reaction over where Sydney's second airport should be built.
THE federal government's chief transport bureaucrat has written to Sydney Airport Corporation requesting talks on a second airport in Sydney, the first legal step in planning for a second site, probably at Wilton, south-west of Campbelltown.
Under the terms of the airport's 2002 privatisation, Sydney Airport has the ''first right of refusal'' in any process to find a company to develop and operate another airport in the Sydney basin.
In a clear sign the Gillard government is serious about pressing ahead with a second airport despite opposition from Sydney Airport and the NSW government, the head of the federal Transport Department, Mike Mrdak, wrote to Sydney Airport Corporation's chairman, Max Moore-Wilton, on March 2 requesting talks about the formal consultation process required under the 2002 Sydney Airport Corporation share sale agreement.
The Transport Minister, Anthony Albanese, will within weeks seek cabinet's endorsement of a response to the joint federal-state study on the second airport, which found that unless governments acted quickly ''the chance to secure the future of aviation in the Sydney region may be lost altogether''.
Although state government co-operation will ultimately be essential for planning and environmental approvals and transport links, Mr Albanese is considering proceeding with a scoping study of the Wilton site, 80 kilometres from the CBD.
The report identified Wilton as the only viable site other than Badgerys Creek, which was bought 27 years ago by the Hawke government but has now been ruled out by both sides of politics.
Mr Moore-Wilton has nominated Sydney Airport's chief executive, Kerrie Mather, to conduct the talks.
Sydney Airport rejects the report's recommendation that immediate planning for a second airport is essential, saying it still has spare capacity which should be used before a huge investment in a second airport proceeds.
The Premier, Barry O'Farrell, has ruled out supporting a second airport anywhere in the Sydney basin. He favours using Canberra airport with a high-speed rail link - an option the study said was not viable.
Coalition frontbenchers including Joe Hockey and Scott Morrison back Mr Albanese's push for planning work on a second airport to proceed, pointing to the report's warnings about the severe economic consequences for Sydney if it did not, as well as a significant increase in aircraft noise.
Mr Moore-Wilton has suggested the federal MPs were all motivated by noise concerns in their electorates.
Under the provisions of the $4.2 billion sale of the airport, the federal government must conduct negotiations with Sydney Airport for between five and 12 months, after which the transport minister can issue a ''notice of intention'' stating that the government believes there is ''a need in the public interest'' for a second airport.
If, within nine months of that declaration, Sydney Airport Corporation has not agreed to build and operate the second airport, the contract can be awarded to another operator.
Critics suggest Sydney Airport has a commercial interest in remaining the operator of the only Sydney airport for as long as possible.
The airport has been criticised by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission for using its monopoly position to raise charges.
The most recent ACCC report found services had improved, but the airport still received the lowest service rating of five major airports studied.
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