Council reneges on deal
By CATHY McQUEEN – TORCH Newspaper – 03/07/2002
At council’s ordinary meeting last Tuesday, the vast majority of councillors voted to renege on a land swap deal with the airport, which they believed would help facilitate future expansion of the airport.
The deal, which dates back to 1999, saw council agreeing to swap a narrow section of land it managed for the State Government near the intersection of Milperra Road and Henry Lawson Drive for airport owned land near Bankstown Basketball stadium.
The motivation behind the swap was to allow the airport to develop the council managed land to create a narrow slip road, allowing acces to fast food outlets and alleviating traffic problems.
The council agreed to the exchange in order to provide extra land for the expansion of Bankstown Basketball Stadium.
Despite the original perceived advantages of the land swap deal, including the extension of the Basketball stadium and the easing of traffic problems, the councillors decided that it was time to make a stand on the prickly issue of airport expansion.
Councillor Ian Stromborg said he firmly believed that despite airport managements claims to the contrary, the land swap would only lead to the expansion of the airport’s commercial operations.
“It is my view that this land swap is not in the best interests of the community,” Cr Stromborg said.
“I have not had one phone call (from residents) supportive of this land swap but I have had a stack of calls to say we would be going down the wrong path if it went ahead.”
Councillor Helen Westwood said she was aware that council’s move would in no way stop the airport expanding. But she said it was important to make it patently clear to the airport’s management and the community that council was strongly opposed to any expansion plans.
“I know that the airport will be privatised and once that happens we are going to have even less say (in what happens there),” she said.
“But we can at least have some influence now. It is important that we do not proceed with the land swap because it is symbolic of the position we are taking on the airport as an organisation.”
The long voice of protest against the decision to rescind the land swap agreement belonged to Councillor Paul Barrett.
Cr Barrett said the dead had “significant community advantages” and council should be doing its utmost to support the Basketball Stadium. But his argument fell on deaf ears.
Bankstown Airport Community and Environment Forum (BACEF) convener Sonya McKay said while her group was pleased with council’d decision, it was too little too late.
“We are not happy that it has taken so long – this decision should have been made three years ago.”
She said the group also harboured resentment at its treatment when members opposed the land swap deal in 1999.
“We are unhappy with the way we were treated when it came before council in 1999,” she said.
Airport general manager Kim Ellis said while he was disappointed by council’s decision he was not surprised. “The sad thing was the land swap was in council’d best interests. It would have resolved the traffic problems and allowed the basketball stadium to expand. It is a shame that a decision like this was made on a political basis,” he said.
He said the airport would not be revisiting the issue with council.