A full chronology of government decisions (and indecision), investigations and reports was prepared by the Australian Parliament House Library in 2005 and is available for download (PDF, 843kB). A summary of that document is provided below, updated to the time of completion of this case study in 2012:
1946-1975: Early years – Investigations into the need for and potential location of a second Sydney airport commenced in 1946 with a study undertaken to determine the most appropriate site for the development of a new international airport for Sydney. Sites investigated included Towra Point, Bankstown and Mascot. Consideration of Towra Point continued through to the mid-1960s when a NSW Government study recommended that a second airport be established at Towra Point to be operational by 1980 when KSA was predicted to reach capacity.
Little traction on the Towra Point airport proposal was achieved and by 1969 the Australian Government’s attention turned to broader investigations by a number of agencies into 11 sites ranging from Warnervale on the Central Coast down to Wattamolla. By 1971, the federal view was that a second airport was necessary and that Richmond and Somersby be further investigated as priority sites.
In 1973, the new Whitlam Government ignored the advice of a further report by a joint federal/state Committee that recommended extending the capacity of KSA before constructing a new airport. Federal Cabinet rejected the recommendation and announced Galston as the site of the second airport. However, this site was ruled out the following year on the grounds that it was not financially or economically feasible. The decision also followed protests by local residents.
1976-1988: Badgerys Creek emerges – By 1976 the need for a second Sydney airport was again being debated in the context of the future capacity of KSA. A joint federal/state Major Airport Needs Study (MANS) was commenced to examine whether to build a second runway at KSA or to build a second Sydney Airport amongst an increasing number of studies that showed growth in air travel had been overestimated and that KSA had adequate capacity until at least 2000.
The MANS group released a preliminary report in 1979 that recommended the construction of a third runway at KSA and selected Badgerys Creek as the site for a second airport should one be needed in the future. The report created a divide between the Australian and NSW Governments with NSW rejecting the MANS reports and strongly opposing the need for second runway at KSA.
During the early 1980s the second airport debate was largely characterised by disagreement between the two levels of government. This was to an extent driven by partisan politics. By 1985 a draft environmental impact statement on sites at Wilton and Badgerys Creek was released for public comment by the Commonwealth. In early 1986, Badgerys Creek was selected as the site for the second Sydney airport and land acquisition commenced.
1988-95: Kingsford Smith upgrade buys time – Lack of progress on the development of the airport at Badgerys Creek shifted focus back to capacity at KSA. By the late 1980s the NSW Government, critical of federal handling of Badgerys Creek, heavily promoted the construction of a third runway at KSA. This was supported by the Australian Government in March 1989, however progress on Badgerys Creek would continue, with commitment to the development of a general aviation facility and design work on the future airport.
During the early 1990s, debate over the development of the second Sydney airport intensified. The federal Coalition opposition argued that construction of a second airport at Badgerys Creek should not commence until KSA was fully upgraded and the need for an additional airport established. Approval of the third runway at KSA further cast doubt on the need for and timing of a second airport in Western Sydney.
1995-2002: State and federal disagreement wastes time – By the mid-1990s, with completion of the third runway at KSA and changes to operations and flight paths at that airport, focus again shifted to the second airport. Forecasts for aviation growth were revised upward, particularly for domestic travel.
In 1995 the Australian Government announced the commencement of a comprehensive EIS process for the Badgerys Creek site and included in its budget over $600 million for land acquisition, planning and construction and new roadworks. However momentum was lost when the federal Airport Sales Legislation was blocked by the Opposition in the Senate, effectively wiping out forward funding for the second airport project and delaying its proposed timetable.
By 1996 the new Howard Coalition government, while supporting a second airport in the Sydney basin, included consideration of Holsworthy as a potential site. Holsworthy was however dismissed as a possible site a year later and the Badgerys Creek EIS was publicly released for comment. In response Federal and State MPs from Western Sydney publicly opposed construction of an airport at Badgerys Creek as did the NSW Government and the Western Sydney Alliance of Councils.
2003-2012: A lack of acceptable options – Despite broadly endorsing the Badgerys Creek EIS, by the early 2000s the Australian Government began again to defer plans for the construction of the airport at Badgerys Creek on the basis of there being adequate capacity at KSA in the short to medium term.
By 2003 the Labor federal opposition completely withdrew support for the Badgerys Creek site and proposed yet another round of site investigations should it win government. By 2005, the Australian Government’s view was that there was adequate capacity at KSA.
In December 2009, the Rudd Labor Government released a National Aviation Policy White Paper which stated that the Government did not accept the proposition that KSA could or should handle projected long term aviation growth in the Sydney Region. The paper outlined a joint Australian/NSW Government strategic aviation plan for the Sydney region to consider the medium and long term aviation infrastructure requirements for the region and the land transport network linkages to meet forecast aviation demand.
The paper also stated that Badgerys Creek was no longer an option for a second Sydney airport as the site had been overtaken by urban growth and was now inconsistent with NSW strategic planning for South West Sydney.[/expand]