Last year, more than 2.2 million people flew between Gold Coast Airport and Sydney.
Among these were local residents flying to Sydney for business, to visit friends and family, see medical specialists or en route to other towns, cities and countries.
The vast majority of these people, however, were holidaymakers wanting to spend time at the beaches, theme parks, historic communities and the hinterland of the NSW Far North Coast and the Gold Coast.
These visits are good news for the region’s economy. They bring jobs, investment and they support tourism, retail and other industries.
Unfortunately, if some people have their way, aviation access to and from Sydney will become increasingly difficult for the people of regional NSW.
In a nutshell, Sydney Airport is full. All the tinkering in the world won’t change that.
Last month, I released a 3,200-page, independent report, commissioned by both the Federal and NSW governments, which made it clear that Sydney’s aviation infrastructure cannot cope with future demand.
Sydney will need a second airport sooner rather than later.
I know this is an uncomfortable fact but it cannot be ignored, particularly by people living in regional NSW.
Regional air services in NSW grew by nearly 25 per cent over the past five years. Sydney alone has seen a million more passengers from regional destinations in that time.
Sydney Airport is the linchpin not just for the state aviation network but for the nation. Access to Sydney is critical in supporting economic growth around the nation.
International experience shows that airports create 1,000 jobs for every million passengers. We stand to lose jobs and economic investment if we don’t act.
Sydney is also a hub. One out of two passengers at Gold Coast Airport is flying to Sydney. That means a delay in Sydney has a knock-on effect across the network. For example, by 2020, a two-hour delay at Sydney in the morning would affect more than 40 flights to and from the Gold Coast.
The joint study’s report makes it clear that we need to do more, particularly to ensure aviation continues to grow.
Building a second airport for Sydney is too important a national issue to drag into short-term, partisan politics. It needs a mature bipartisan approach.
That is why I have already provided briefings through the Department of Infrastructure to Members of Parliament from across the political spectrum.
Building a second airport also has support from the business community, from the airline industry, from the tourism industry.
This is not only about Sydney maintaining its status as Australia’s global city but also about making sure the Far North Coast, the Gold Coast and all of regional Australia, continue to benefit from aviation access to Sydney.