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Airport plans skirt around state laws

The Government was close to making public its blueprint for the corridor between the airport and the city reports Anne Davies the SMH State Political Editor in the SMH of January 2, 2006 in this article about plans for the airport development.

SYDNEY Airport has become a haven from NSW development laws. Two big projects are being planned within its boundaries to avoid potential issues with the State Government.

The Macquarie Bank-controlled Sydney Airport Corporation has already announced plans for a retail development on airport land, even though state policy is to concentrate retail activities in areas well served by public transport.

Now, documents revealed to State Parliament show that Services Sydney, the private company that wants to build a water recycling plant for Sydney, is also eyeing airport land.

According to one document, it proposes to build its plant between the two runways, near the main southern sewer line to Malabar. The recycled water would then be sent back out to the Hawkesbury-Nepean River system via a pipe located within the road reserves along the M5 and the M7 motorways.

The location of the plant within the airport grounds would mean the Federal Government, not the State Government, would be the planning authority on the project. Services Sydney has not publicly said where the plant will be.

The State Government has been less than enthusiastic about the project because it does not believe there is a sufficient market for recycled water. But the Australian Competition Tribunal ruled recently that Services Sydney should have access to Sydney Water's sewerage network.

The main plant would be exempt from state planning laws if built on airport land, although the state would still regulate the quality of water it produced. A spokesman for Sydney Airport Corporation, Peter Vickery, said the water recycling plant was not part of the airport's masterplan.

However, the corporation was determined to further develop the airport, and a retail complex with cinemas, or with offices, was firmly on the agenda.

"There is going to be growth at the airport, not just from retail but from growth in the airport activity itself, due to economic growth of NSW," Mr Vickery said.

But the State Government is becoming increasingly frustrated with the airport and is expected to strongly oppose a planned 65,000-square-metre retail complex in a submission due to be lodged at the end of the month.

Several ministers are concerned that the complex would add to traffic problems and hinder plans to expand Port Botany.

"This kind of wilful, willy-nilly stuff-you attitude is over the top," said the Minister for Planning, Frank Sartor. "Last time I checked the airport was not surrounded by water. It's part of NSW."

Mr Sartor said he wanted to discuss the plans and alternatives with the airport's chief executive, Max Moore-Wilton.

The Government was close to making public its blueprint for the corridor between the airport and the city, which would be an important business area, he said.

"You don't want to create a Roselands at the airport. We don't need a massive vehicle-based retail outlet there."

A business park or office space could be more suitable for the site, he said.

Mr Vickery said the airport would welcome the release of the corridor masterplan.