Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area
World Heritage Values protected
The Australian Government recognises the importance of protecting the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area (GBMWHA). The construction and operation of Western Sydney International (Nancy-Bird Walton) Airport (WSI) will not have a significant direct or indirect impact on the World Heritage Values of the GBMWHA or result in listed attributes of the area being lost or damaged.
The Department of the Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water routinely and proactively provides information to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre about developments that may affect the World Heritage values of a World Heritage property.
The Australian Government nominated the Blue Mountains for World Heritage listing in 1998. The assessing body, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), subsequently requested further information to support the nomination, including information on the airport, which had not been addressed in the nomination.
The GBMWHA was ultimately inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2000, following more than two years of detailed consideration. The inscription acknowledged that an airport was planned at Badgerys Creek (see timeline below).
In its evaluation, the IUCN noted the proposed airport had been subject to a comprehensive environmental impact assessment and was not expected to adversely affect ecological or aesthetic values of the Greater Blue Mountains.
Comprehensive information on the history and process of the nomination is available in 591 pages of documentation on the World Heritage Centre's website.
The Australian Government will continue to meet its obligations under Australia's environmental law, including under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
Timeline of decisions
- 24 June 1998 – The Australian Government submits a nomination for World Heritage listing of the Greater Blue Mountains.
- 30 June 1999 – Government releases Badgerys Creek Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for consideration of Environment Minister.
- 3 September 1999 – Environment Minister concludes review of EIS and announces airport development can proceed at Badgerys Creek.
- 30 January 2000 – Supplementary information requested by UNESCO World Heritage Centre is submitted, including information on the environmental impact assessment process for the airport. Further information is subsequently provided on other aspects of the World Heritage nomination.
- 29 November 2000 – The 21-member World Heritage Committee unanimously accepts the nomination to list the Blue Mountains as a World Heritage site.
- 2 December 2000 – The Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area is officially inscribed.
- 13 December 2000 – The government announces deferral of the airport project as expanded capacity at Sydney Airport means it will not be needed for at least a decade. The government protects the Badgerys Creek site against incompatible development to preserve it for future airport operations.
- 2 March 2012 – Joint Study on aviation capacity in the Sydney region confirms that a second airport will be required.
- 15 April 2014 – Badgerys Creek is announced as the site for the airport.
- 15 September 2016 – Western Sydney International (Nancy-Bird Walton) Airport Environmental Impact Statement finalised.
- 7 June 2017 – The World Heritage Centre releases a statement confirming that it continues to work in close collaboration with relevant Australian authorities. Documentation including the Western Sydney International (Nancy-Bird Walton) Airport Environmental Impact Statement has been provided to the IUCN and no issues have been raised. The World Heritage Centre has acknowledged the due diligence work undertaken so far on WSI.
Mitigating environmental impacts
The Australian Government released a new Environmental Impact Statement in September 2016, with two chapters on the Blue Mountains, considering the Stage 1 and long-term airport developments respectively.
The assessment took into account the World Heritage Values of the GBMWHA, which relate primarily to the evolution and diversity of regionally distinctive flora and fauna, such as the varieties of eucalypts. Potential impacts of aircraft overflights on the integrity of the World Heritage property and on other important values of the GBMWHA were also assessed in detail.
Two previous Environmental Impact Statements were completed in 1985 and 1999. Both found that the airport development could proceed.
Detailed flight paths will be finalised in the future through a transparent and consultative process. This process will ensure that the final airspace and flight path design is evaluated against the key performance criteria of safety, efficiency, capacity, and noise and other environmental considerations, including potential impacts on the natural values and amenity of the GBMWHA.
The airspace and flight path design, once developed, will also be referred to the Environment Minister as a plan for aviation airspace management, under section 161 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.