Second airport plan dashed

THE O'Farrell government's plans for Canberra to host Sydney's second airport are in tatters, following the approval of a big housing development in the Canberra Airport flight path, the federal government says.

The NSW Planning Minister, Brad Hazzard, will announce on Tuesday the government has agreed to rezone land for the South Tralee housing development, a controversial proposal that will allow about 2000 homes to be built south of the airport.

The Premier, Barry O'Farrell, has repeatedly rebuffed calls for a second airport in Sydney and said the expansion of Canberra Airport, accompanied by a very fast train, is his preferred option.

Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese has slammed the move as extraordinary, arguing that "no proper planning process" would have approved the development.

"This decision simply doesn't make sense," he told reporters in Sydney on Tuesday.

Mr Albanese said Canberra airport was one of the few major airports that has an approach that was free of housing development.

It was also the only curfew-free airport between Brisbane and Melbourne that could increase capacity, he said. It is also expected to grow by 30 per cent over the next decade.

"What governments have to do is to rise above sectional interests, represent the interests of the community, and represent the national or the state economic interest" he said.

Earlier on ABC Radio, Mr Albanese would not rule out legal action over the decision.

"We'll certainly consider our options, but I would hope that the NSW government reconsiders this position," Mr Albanese said.

"Barry O'Farrell, I think, now looks completely ridiculous."

Despite his anger over the South Tralee development, Mr Albanese stood by his support for a second airport in Sydney.

"Sydney needs a second airport which, funnily enough, is in Sydney and services Sydney," he said.

In a statement, Mr Hazzard said the decision was a "win-win", saying a number of conditions had been imposed on the development that meant it would not have an effect on the airport's operations or future expansion.

The approval is conditional on the footprint of the development being decreased by about 20 per cent and housing being restricted to "low noise" areas. All new homes must be insulated against noise.

“We have met the challenge of getting more housing into the Queanbeyan area and ensuring that Canberra Airport remains a 24-hour, curfew-free passenger and freight hub,” he said.

Canberra Airport's managing director, Stephen Byron, disagreed, saying even the so-called "low noise" areas had been identified by the Planning Assessment Commission as inappropriate for development.

Mr Byron said a curfew was now "inevitable".

"We'll have no capacity for overflow and Sydney is back to square one with a need for a second airport," he said.

with Judith Ireland