Is Anyone Listening? Health Impact Assessment of the Western Sydney Airport Community Engagement

The Western Sydney Airport

The Western Sydney Airport (WSA) is a proposed second airport to be located near Badgery’s Creek, about 50km west of the Sydney central business district. Planning and investigation of a second airport location have been ongoing for the past 50 years and in April 2014, the federal government announced that Badgery’s Creek would be the site of the airport. After release for public exhibition of the draft environmental impact statement and airport plan in 2015, the EIS was finalised in October, 2016, and the final airport plan was approved by the Minister for Urban Infrastructure in December, 2016. It is expected that the airport will be operational by 2025.

Community Engagement

As part of the environmental impact assessment and airport development there has been on-going engagement with various communities and relevant stakeholders, such as local councils. These efforts have been spearheaded by the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development (DIRD) who oversees the approval process of development plans for the airport. Community engagement is an ongoing component of airport operations and it is expected that the airport developer will need to employ stakeholder engagement related to future planning and operations.

Health Impact Assessment

Stakeholder engagement, when well done, has the potential to lead to many positive outcomes for communities. There is also evidence that a lack of participation in decision-making is damaging to health and wellbeing. It was therefore decided that a health impact assessment (HIA) would be useful for understanding the potential positive, negative and unintended impacts of stakeholder engagement practices related to the airport.

The Centre for Health Equity Training, Research and Evaluation (CHETRE), part of the Centre for Primary Health Care and Equity at UNSW Australia and a unit of Population Health, South Western Sydney Local Health District, led this assessment.

HIA is a systematic process that considers the potential health impacts of a project and offers recommendations to mitigate harms and improve benefits. HIA also considers the differential impacts of decisions on community members. The HIA Team followed the standard step-wise process for completing an HIA. Work on the HIA began in July 2015 and was completed in February 2017.

Between May and June of 2016, the HIA Team, with assistance from Western Sydney Community Forum, conducted five community workshops in communities that were likely to be affected by the airport development: Blacktown, Bringelly, Cabramatta, Lawson, and Oran Park. Over the same months there was also an online survey publicly available to enable contributions from the people who were unable to attend the workshops. The Centre for Health Equity Training, Research and Evaluation (CHETRE), part of the Centre for Primary Health Care and Equity at UNSW Australia and a unit of Population Health, South Western Sydney Local Health District, led this assessment.

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