Friday, 16 December 2016 11:33

Can an airport be healthy?

Aeroplane flying over field. Aeroplane flying over field.


While airports are often thought of as harmful to community health, South West Sydney Local Health District (SWSLHD) have asked the question ‘How can we ensure that Western Sydney Airport is a world exemplar for supporting healthy communities?’

The first of its kind study, hopes to produce a vision for best practice in holistic airport design, not only looking at physical determinants of health, but social and environmental factors as well.

Chair of the SWSLHD Healthy Airport working party, Professor Peter Sainsbury, said that while noise and air pollution are key issues to be addressed, “…if we stop at noise and air pollution we are failing to harness the potential to create an airport that offers real benefits to our community.”

Factors such as equity in access to employment, accessibility of public and private transport links, and the potential to include opportunities for greenspace, cycle paths, entertainment and recreational venues that promote social inclusion will be carefully considered by the Health District.

It is hoped this process will produce a world-first vision for a healthy airport; a policy document that can be used as a guide for best-practice airport design the world over.

WSROC President Cr Stephen Bali said “WSROC is keen to see the results of this study.

“If an airport is to be built in Western Sydney, for Western Sydney, then we must ensure that quality of life is maintained in terms of noise, environmental protections and traffic congestion.

“We should also be looking at ways to maximise benefits such as availability of employment, access to facilities and services, social inclusion, and regional connectivity,” said Cr Bali.

SWSLHD is also conducting a health impact assessment (HIA) of the Australian Government’s community engagement process with respect to WSA, and an in-depth study into potential noise and air pollution impacts.

The final research reports and Vision for a Healthy Airport are due to be released in February 2017.


Current studies underway by the South Western Sydney Local Health District:

Health Impact Assessment of the Western Sydney Airport Community Engagement Process

SWSLHD has conducted an intensive health impact assessment (HIA) of the Western Sydney Airport community engagement process in partnership with the University of New South Wales’ Centre for Health Equity Training, Research and Evaluation (CHETRE).

WSROC engaged CHETRE to conduct a review of the health component of the draft EIS in 2015, and the SWSLHD study will offer a greater depth of analysis into the process of engaging with communities.

SWSLHD directly engaged with communities surrounding the Badgerys Creek site, including areas outside the SWSLHD boundaries for example in the Blue Mountains.

Once complete, the results of this assessment will be presented to the Australian Government.


Protecting the health of residents: Noise and air pollution at Western Sydney Airport

Aircraft take-offs, landings and ground movements pose hazards to the health of residential populations through noise and air pollution. The Western Sydney Airport is proposed to be a 24 hour (no curfew) airport and this poses special additional hazards.

This SWSLHD Population Health working group aims to summarise the direct health effects from exposure to aircraft noise and air pollution such as sleep disturbance, cardiovascular disease and respiratory disease. The findings of this study will contribute constructively to the discussion in Developing a Vision for a 'Healthy' Airport.


Developing a Vision for a 'Healthy' Airport

This SWSLHD Population Health working group aims to identify and document the elements of a healthy airport, an airport being defined as not simply the area within its geographical boundary but also the many activities and services that connect the airport to the community at large. This work will be used as a guide to healthy airport development and operation and to informing the public about the issues.


Further information:

South Western Sydney Local Health District website 

Western Sydney Airport – Planning for positive health outcomes forum (November, 2016)

Last modified on Monday, 19 December 2016 12:03