A PROPOSAL to build a major international airport about 30 minutes from the Southern Highlands is generating a lot of discussion about its potential benefit to the region.
A site near Wilton has moved to the top of the Federal Government's list for the proposed second Sydney airport and, if it ever goes ahead, will have a significant effect on the Highlands.
Mittagong Chamber president and candidate for the federal seat of Hume, Rick Mandelson, said the proposal posed a lot of unanswered questions, but could prove to be of great benefit to the region.
"If it does go ahead then it could lead to population growth and increased economic activity for the Highlands, but there are also infrastructure and environmental issues that come with that sort of growth," he said.
"But I think these sorts of things are a reality for our part of the world and we can either put our heads in the sand and so no, or we can try to develop some strategies to make it work more effectively.
"That's what council, chambers of commerce and community groups need to start doing rather than trying to stop the tide. When you say no all the time you end up getting rolled."
A two-year government study released last week found another airport was needed if Sydney was to keep growing at its current pace and that Badgerys Creek was the best site.
However, Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said the government would not build an airport at Badgerys Creek and would instead begin planning studies for the second-best airport site, Wilton.
The advantages of Wilton were that it was close to the Hume Highway and the main southern railway line, however, it was susceptible to fog and would have aircraft approaching and departing over Wollongong's northern suburbs.
The report, prepared by state and federal bureaucrats and private sector representatives, said the Wilton site would probably not attract enough business to be viable before 2030.
It said it would become a more attractive option if Sydney's future growth extended to the south-west, past Leppington. Premier Barry O'Farrell said he opposed a second airport in the Sydney basin.
Wollondilly Mayor slams proposal: