Leaked “cabinet-in-confidence” documents seen by Fairfax and the ABC show the State Government is considering additional tolls on road-users to help pay for its Sydney Gateway, the final stage of its WestConnex motorway.
The $1.8 billion Gateway, connecting the toll-road to both the airport and a major interchange in St Peters, is expected to be completed in 2023.
Figures show that while around $1.2 billion is to be budgeted through WestConnex funding, $600 million in road-building costs remain unsourced.
The papers advise the NSW Cabinet to consider additional funding sources, such as new fees, or levies on freight activities in the area, and additional tolls on airport-bound vehicle trips through the Gateway.
The documents also list potential impacts to businesses and land-users in the area, advising against one construction option, which would have prevented property developers from building proposed hotels.
Airport land to be acquired
The Cabinet documents reveal that due to high-land values in the area, the anticipated cost of property acquisition for NSW taxpayers is calculated at $550 million.
Half of the spend, almost $300 million, is for 13 hectares of land belonging to Sydney Airport.
The operational land, in the airport’s north is currently used for freight, logistics and general aviation, but is seen as vital to the successful construction of the Gateway.
Cabinet documents reveal almost $300 million would be needed to acquire 13 hectares of land from Sydney Airport. (ABC News: Giulio Saggin)
The documents reveal that the State Government’s strategy is to reach a “negotiated settlement” with the airport and the Commonwealth Government over the land.
The confidential papers reveal that the State Government’s bargaining power is weakened because airport land is protected from compulsory acquisition, under the Airports Act.
A counter-argument is made, that the airport should instead be convinced to make a fair contribution to costs, as “the largest single beneficiary” of the Gateway.
While the Cabinet documents model several routes around the airport, they find that a final route through the airport’s northern lands is the only viable option.
More expensive options, to the south and west, were ruled out after property acquisition costs were estimated to be as high as $800 million.
Sydney Gateway project in its ‘early stages’
The documents also reveal that instead of monetary compensation, the airport is asking the State Government for an offer of replacement land, needed to maintain its aviation operations.
The Cooks River freight terminal and Kogarah Golf Course are identified as suitable swaps, but both sites in turn will require further property acquisition by either the commonwealth or state governments.
A successful land swap would then allow the construction of a massive new flyover in Mascot, and the relocation of major access roads around the airport, accommodating a future traffic flow of up to 190,000 cars and trucks into the Gateway each day.
A massive project to relocate freight rail lines around the airport and Port Botany is also proposed in the plans, bringing the expected cost of the Gateway to close to $2.1 billion.
A spokesperson for Roads Minister Melinda Pavey told the ABC: “The Government is in the early stages of the Sydney Gateway project and will keep the community updated.”
A spokesperson for Sydney Airport declined to answer detailed questions, but told the ABC that “effective transport” is “vital” to the airport’s future.
“The NSW Government is determining the right solution for the area and we support the state’s process,” the spokesperson said.