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The Greater Sydney Region Plan pitches the Aerotropolis – essentially a fashionable name for a cluster of airport-related businesses – as underpinning the creation of hundreds of thousands of high-skill jobs in the Western Parkland City in “aerospace and defence, manufacturing, healthcare, freight and logistics, agribusiness, education and research industries”.
The planned Western Sydney Aerotropolis at Badgerys Creek is the NSW government’s rationalisation for hiving-off the far western suburbs of Sydney as a separate, mostly self-contained, sub-region under its “three cities” metropolitan strategy.
I think the catalytic effect the Berejiklian government attributes to the Aerotropolis is extremely dubious. It strikes me as more about (political) marketing than plausible policy.
Consider that Melbourne Airport together with nearby industrial uses – about 5 square km, excluding runways and buffer areas – only has around 30,000 jobs, accounting for just 1.5% of all jobs in the Melbourne metropolitan area (see Where are the suburban jobs?).
That puny share is despite Melbourne Airport:
In contrast, Western Sydney Airport will compete with the busiest airport in Australia, is located 44 km from Sydney CBD, and will start in 2026 from a base of zero air traffic.
Advocates of the Aerotropolis emphasise the importance of air freight in driving jobs growth in the west, but air only accounts for 0.3 billion tonne km of non-bulk domestic freight out of a national total of 174.8 billion tonne km.
Air has a much higher share of international freight when measured by value because it’s used for transport of high-price, low-weight items like mobile phones and pharmaceuticals. But that doesn’t translate to large numbers of direct jobs; only around 1.2 million tonnes of freight is exported/imported nationally by air each year.
In any event, it’s not obvious why importers of (say) electronic components would prioritise locating at Badgerys Creek rather than elsewhere in Sydney e.g. in the electronics cluster at Macquarie Park. Factors like access to suppliers, customers and skilled workers are likely to be far more important in most firms’ locational calculations than proximity to air freight deliveries.
This article first appeared on blogs.crikey.com.au
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