Blue Mountains News

Urgent concerns raised over flight path threat to World Heritage status

By Blue Mountains City Council
Posted: 16 Jan 2024
Council has raised urgent concerns over proposed flight paths for the Western Sydney Airport.
Threats to the Blue Mountains iconic landscapes and world heritage status are among the concerns raised by the Blue Mountains City Council following the release of the proposed flight paths in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Western Sydney Airport.

Ahead of making its formal submission, Council has written to Susan Templeman MP, Member for Macquarie, raising key concerns and requesting Ms Templeman’s support in urgently elevating them directly to the Minister for the Environment, the Hon. Tanya Plibersek MP.

Council also seeks to ensure UNESCO is appropriately aware of this unprecedented threat to the integrity of the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.

Blue Mountains Mayor Mark Greenhill, said, “We are raising these concerns in advance of making our official submission to the Government because we feel compelled to act urgently to highlight the significant risk to the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, and to the Blue Mountains community, resulting from the flight paths included in the Draft EIS.

“The adverse impacts are significant, inaccurately assessed, and by their nature threaten the Outstanding Universal Values of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. The Blue Mountains has been treated with blatant disregard by the Federal Department of Infrastructure in its preparation of this Draft EIS.”

Concerns Council has include:

High Visual Impact on Iconic Landscapes (Planes over the Three Sisters)

The Draft EIS states that the visual impact of flights over the World Heritage Area and its iconic landscape areas will be “moderate – high”. The EIS does not consider mitigation measures, and there is no detailed assessment or discussion of these impacts, with the EIS concluding that impacts are inevitable as the airport is under construction.

Lack of Wilderness Area Assessment

The Australian Government has had two decades to create frameworks and standards to ensure that aircraft movements from the Badgerys Creek Airport do not undermine value of the World Heritage Area. There has been a failure to take any meaningful action or to establish standards based on international best practice, to assess impacts to wilderness areas.

Threat to Aboriginal Cultural Heritage and Land-Sky Connection

Potential impacts to significant places of Aboriginal Cultural Heritage are assessed in a cursory and superficial way in the Draft EIS, including Echo Point and the Three Sisters as a declared Aboriginal Place, which will suffer significant visual intrusion from proposed flight paths. No meaningful consultation with Traditional Owners has been undertaken.

Noise and No Curfew (Inequity for the Blue Mountains and the West)

Western Sydney Airport is proposed to operate 24 hours a day. The absence of a curfew is a significant concern and inequitable burden on the people of the Blue Mountains and Western Sydney, with potential to significantly impact quality of life, create sleep disturbance and ongoing health risks. These are not adequately considered in the Draft EIS.

Call for a holistic review of Sydney Basin Airspace

A central instruction to the flight path designers for the Draft EIS was to avoid impact to existing operations at Kingsford Smith Airport. This has prevented a transparent assessment of flight path options across the Sydney Basin. It has led to an inequitable and unfair burden on the Blue Mountains and Western Sydney, taking 24-hour flights over highly sensitive, low noise environments.

Environmental Impacts

The assessment of environmental impacts within the Draft EIS is both inconsistent and inadequate.  The potential for significant impact to threatened fauna through strikes, implementation of wildlife buffers and other airport operations has been inadequately assessed, the projected greenhouse gas emissions are misrepresented through the exclusion of international flights, and very real impacts to air quality in the Blue Mountains have not been considered.

Threat to Blue Mountains local economy and tourism

The Blue Mountains is reliant on the visitor economy, with a nature-based recreation and tourism industry dependant on a high level of amenity and tranquillity in natural areas. Substantial levels of aircraft noise and overflights has substantial potential to destroy the visitor experience in the Blue Mountains. 

Inadequate UNESCO Notification

In September 2023, the World Heritage Committee requested the state government “fully assess the potential impacts of the Western Sydney International (Nancy-Bird Walton) Airport on the Outstanding Universal Values of the property” and submit a report on the implementation of the airport to the World Heritage Centre by 1 December 2024.  While UNESCO received notification that the Draft EIS is on public exhibition, there is no confirmation that a report is being prepared to present to the World Heritage Committee in 2024.

The Draft EIS is on public exhibition until 31 January 2024. You can make a submission through one of three ways: 

  • online through the flight paths community portal at here
  • by email to
  • by mail to the WSI Flight Path Team at GPO Box 594, Canberra ACT 2601. 

For people who do not have internet access information about the Draft EIS, including two physical copies of the EIS, are available at Springwood and Katoomba libraries.

Information about the Draft EIS is also available at Council’s Customer Service Centres at Katoomba and Springwood. 

 
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