In the green fields around Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, authorities have been thinking laterally when it comes to mitigating aircraft noise.
A few years ago sound engineers noticed a significant reduction in aircraft noise each autumn, when farmers began ploughing their fields in the area.
Convinced the furrows were absorbing noise, the airport hired a landscaper to replicate the effect all year round by digging 150 symmetrical furrows in a nearby 32ha site green belt known as the Buitenschot Land Park.
Since the park opened two years ago, aircraft noise has dropped by half, with noise hitting the furrows and then being bounced toward the sky.
And in a double pay-off for the community, the land park has become a popular recreational area, featuring bikeways and walking tracks.
Schiphol, Europe’s fourth-largest airport, provides an important example for the federal government as it moves toward construction of a second Sydney airport at Badgerys Creek.
Sydney needs a second airport because the existing Kingsford-Smith Airport is approaching full capacity.
Failure to act will inhibit the economic growth of Sydney, but because Sydney is Australia’s global city, it will also limit the growth of our entire national economy.
But since we are dealing with a greenfield site at Badgerys Creek, we have a fantastic opportunity to build an airport in line with world’s best practice.
Badgerys Creek should become an exemplar for modern airport development, not just when it comes to noise mitigation, but also in the way in which we use it to extract the greatest possible economic benefit for our nation and, in particular, the people of Western Sydney.
When authorities propose building new airports, it is natural people living near flight paths will be concerned about the impact. That’s why it is critical the government pay close attention to public comment on the project’s environmental impact study, released last month.
It’s important local people are heard through proper consultation processes and that their opinions are given genuine weight.
But the government should go further.
Right now we should be opening our eyes to the world — looking at the world’s best airports and making sure that we take the best ideas for application at Badgerys.
Whether we can follow the Schiphol Airport and construct a sound sponge is a matter for the experts. But the point is that Badgerys Creek Airport should be seen as a golden opportunity to build from scratch one of the world’s great airports.
To design such an airport we should look far and wide for ideas and best practice.
Rather than viewing this project as just another piece of infrastructure, we should be ambitious about what it can achieve, not just for travellers, but for the city of Sydney and its economy.
This exercise is not just about an airport — a runway and a terminal. It’s about jobs, high-skilled jobs with high incomes. A properly developed airport can become what experts call an Aerotropolis, a job-creating precinct that not only includes an airport, but also a large number of businesses in aviation, logistics, tourism, smart manufacturing and knowledge industries.
To attract the industries that will create the jobs of the future in Western Sydney, we need to ensure the airport is properly served by supportive infrastructure, including roads, fibre optic broadband technology and, critically, a link to Sydney’s passenger rail system.
On current plans, the airport will have no railway line when it opens. This exclusion will short-change Sydney by limiting the potential for the establishment of new businesses and jobs around the airport.
To achieve the best for Sydney we need to embrace world’s best practice from all angles, including design, operation, services, retailing and connectivity. Half a job won’t be good enough.
And we need to understand, like our friends in Amsterdam, that part of delivering a great airport is making sure it addresses the legitimate concerns of those who live in its vicinity.
Once those concerns are given due regard, the airport can then be developed as an important economic asset for the entire region.
Anthony Albanese is the Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Cities
This article appeared in today’s edition of The Daily Telegraph.