Union leader backs airport at Wilton

Release date: 12/04/2012

An international airport near Wollongong is ‘‘the real deal’’ to transform the Illawarra economy, a key transport figure says.

Bevan Shields, Illawarra Mercury

Transport Workers’ Union national secretary Tony Sheldon this week declared Wilton the most viable location for the project, after a 3200-page study into Sydney’s future aviation needs made similar conclusions.

Mr Sheldon told the Mercury opponents should focus less on likely noise impacts and more on the tens of thousands of jobs the airport would create.

‘‘A piece of infrastructure this big, so close to the Illawarra, would help create a new future for the region,’’ he said.

‘‘It would provide good paying, stable, secure jobs, be it as a baggage handler, an aircraft engineer, pilot or someone who works in a restaurant or bar.

‘‘An airport is unusual in that it provides both high skilled and semi-skilled jobs, meaning you get new opportunities for a whole gamut of people.

‘‘It’s the real deal for the Illawarra and south-west Sydney.’’

The existing Sydney Airport employs about 16,000 people, with between 9600 and 12,000 staff working on site on an average day.

About 600 employees are from the Illawarra.

Airports can generate 1000 jobs for every million passengers. A second Sydney airport could one day handle up to 65 million passengers a year.

Mr Sheldon denied the Federal Government was pursuing the Wilton site, and spruiking its economic benefits, for political gain.

He noted the $8million report, released last month, made it clear Wilton was the best location should Badgerys Creek be ruled out.

NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell is opposed to a second airport in the Sydney basin and wants Canberra Airport expanded and linked to Sydney via high-speed rail.

Mr O’Farrell does not want to subject the Sydney basin to more aircraft noise.

‘‘What’s appalling is for Mr O’Farrell to say tens of thousands of jobs that could be created in the Illawarra and south-west Sydney should actually be shipped off to Canberra,’’ Mr Sheldon said.

‘‘Aside from being economically irresponsible, it just won’t work because people will not fly into Canberra on the basis of going to Sydney. It’s like flying into Washington DC when you actually want to go to New York.

‘‘Wilton is the most logical option ... there were certainly many other sites considered, but Wilton is the most logical place for an airport to be built.

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