The factual aspects of this article will focus on the location of Western Sydney priority growth area, which is in fact Sydney's future growth area. However, being a climate and atmospheric scientist in my profession I will synthesize "my stuff" into the matter of things.

The following map can be found in NSW planning department (here). Assuming that this is a serious plan, and indeed this is a priority area for the future development of Sydney, one would expect that a boost to the roads in the area including a rail link will not depend on the airport being built. So far the tone was that these come hand in hand with the airport - a selling point for the airport.


Inspecting the map it is easy to see that the planned future location of the airport at Badgerys Creek is stuck right up the throat of Sydney's future expansion area. This is an astounding fact. In the last 20 years airports built into populated areas (let alone into planning of modern populated areas) have gone out of fashion. Examples of this trend are Hong Kong which relocated Kai-Tek away from the city and South Korea which moved the focus from their inner city airports to the off shore Incheon airport. The reasons are numerous but obvious, and not only about noise pollution. Mixing airports and population is a messy business, and the lateral costs (health, congestion, etc) are high. What is amazing here is that the planning of state and federal governments essentially work one against the other.

Another astounding fact is how poor are the final approach options of the airport. On one side the Warragamba dam and Sydney's water and Blue Mountains world heritage, on the other densely populated areas and on what is left we now have Sydney's future growth area. I bet people from the leafy north won't be queuing up to move to the area, nor would any of the proponents of the airport.

It is easy to assume that the final approach of the proposed airport is constrained by projected populated areas rather than optimal wind directions. Presumably this is designed to reduce the high end impacts of aircraft noise. However, as an atmospheric scientist I can say that it will not limit impacts other than noise. The basin around the airport has the blocking feature the Blue Mountains. This means that pollution is likely to flow and perhaps even be trapped in the Western Sydney basin. Pollution is also likely to mix with forest related aerosols and produce a whole chain of chemical reactions, some of which will end up over populated areas and Sydney's water. The figures below are taken from the environmental impact statement of the airport (Figures 38-2 and 38-3 in here). Both of the proposed flight path options pass over Sydney's water catchment area. The EIS fails to consider the long term effects of such a flight path. It seems that the federal government could not find a worse place to build an airport…

The shortcomings that I mentioned so far will have a long-term cumulative effect. A more tangible example to the reader is the effects fires in the Blue Mountains. Amplified by geographical properties of the region, these recurring events are likely to disrupt the final approach to the airport.

The figures below are taken from the environmental impact statement of the airport (Figures 38-2 and 38-3 in here). The red circle was added by the author and marks Sydneys water catchment as stated in the EIS. It is also interesting to note that the blue colors in the figure denote flight altitude below 3km, but the reference of this altitude is sea level rather than ground level. This discrepancy places a 30% added altitude to the true flight path. It also does not take into consideration the fact that this is indicative rather than the minimal flight altitude.