The planned biodiverse “sustainable city” near Western Sydney Airport could ironically lead to more aircraft bird strikes, according to a report commissioned by the NSW government.
The investigation, which was used for the draft master plan for the development, does believe the project can still go ahead but said some expanses of green space will have to be scaled back as well as keeping trees to a certain height.
Planners hope the ‘Western Sydney Aerotropolis’ at Badgerys Creek will contribute 200,000 jobs and become a “high-skill jobs hub” across aerospace and defence, manufacturing, healthcare and research industries.
However, the report states, “Safeguarding the Western Sydney Airport against wildlife strikes is seemingly at odds with the vision of the Western Sydney Aerotropolis that includes natural area revitalisation, water retention, enhancing biodiversity, establishing an extensive blue-green grid, and increasing tree canopy coverage to 40 per cent.
“Despite the contradictory nature of this challenge, we have taken a balanced approach, with the National Airports Safeguarding Framework at its core, which affords the area amenity but minimises the wildlife threats to aviation.”
In particular, the report identifies problematic areas as being plans to increase the tree canopy cover across the area to 40 per cent and to enhance rivers and wetlands to maximise biodiversity.
“Landscaping to satisfy the Western Parkland City vision contradicts the principles of airport safeguarding against wildlife hazards and has not been adequately addressed in some of the key Aerotropolis landscaping and planning documentation to date,” it continues.
However, the report also argues these problems can be mitigated by a management program to identify wildlife, scaling back the greenspace and prohibiting tree species that attract certain wildlife.
A NSW Department of Planning spokeswoman said, “The findings of the report were used to inform the Draft Aerotropolis Precinct Plan … as well as the land uses allowed around the Airport under the statutory planning controls finalised in October 2020.
“The aim of the report was to safeguard the airport whilst not compromising on the vision for the Western Aerotropolis and the Western Parkland City.
“The Department of Planning, industry and Environment welcomes feedback from the community, which will inform the final plan.”
The news of the potential problem comes after the larger Western Sydney project has run into a number of controversies.
Most notably, in September, it emerged the Commonwealth bought the 12.26 hectares at Bringelly off Leppington Pastoral Company for almost $30 million in July 2018, which is eventually planned to be used for the airport’s second runway.
However, less than a year later, the federal Department of Infrastructure’s accounts showed it actually valued the land at $3.07 million, or a tenth of the price.
It also subsequently transpired that NSW had paid 22 times less per hectare for a 1.36-hectare slice of the so-called ‘Leppington triangle’.