Wallarah on airport radar

A MASSIVE parcel of land on the south-west border of Lake Macquarie has emerged as a potential second airport site for the Hunter-Central Coast region, federal documents show.

A Newcastle Herald investigation has found a map buried in a government report of an airport site called ‘‘Wallarah’’.

The proposed airport boundary would stretch for six kilometres from inside Lake Macquarie’s border, near Wyee, to Warnervale in Wyong Shire.

The Wallarah site was one of five areas short-listed for a second international airport in the governments’ Joint Study on Aviation Capacity for the Sydney Region.

As previously reported, the study recommended Wilton, near Wollongong, as the second international airport site for Sydney.

But transport and planning experts who worked on the study consider Wallarah suitable for an international airport.

NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell was reported yesterday as vowing that a second airport would not be built in Sydney under his Coalition government because the community was already suffering from aircraft noise.

Federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese warned Mr O’Farrell yesterday that he risked putting a ‘‘handbrake’’ on the productivity of Sydney and the nation.

Mr O’Farrell wants Canberra airport expanded to handle international flights and a high-speed rail link to Sydney.

The Joint Study on Aviation Capacity recommended that the federal and state governments examine whether Newcastle Airport could meet population growth in the Hunter and Central Coast.

If it was not adequate, an alternative site for a civilian airport should be found in the region, it said.

The study found Wallarah was suitable for an international airport or a ‘‘single runway airport’’.

Aviation Business Asia Pacific Magazine editor Doug Nancarrow said Newcastle City Council should be looking for an alternative site to Newcastle Airport.

‘‘The RAAF will have a much busier airbase and has already complained about civil operations at Newcastle Airport and in the airspace around it,’’ Mr Nancarrow said.

The Wallarah site could be an option for a second airport, but he believed ‘‘it’d be wiser to look more towards the Hunter Valley’’.

Newcastle lord mayor John Tate said Newcastle Airport’s primary use was the RAAF base.

‘‘The civil side of Newcastle Airport, which Newcastle and Port Stephens councils jointly own, has a lot of capacity to expand,’’ Cr Tate said.

Newcastle Airport was ‘‘not designed or envisaged to ever become an international airport’’.

Newcastle Airport aviation business development manager David Nye said there was no need for a second airport in the region in the foreseeable future.

‘‘The terminal can grow from 1.2million passengers a year that we handle now to 2million without really changing anything,’’ he said.

The airport had capacity to grow to up to 5million passengers a year.

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