24 February 2021

This past Saturday, hundreds of angry residents and landowners from the Western Sydney Aerotropolis gathered at Luddenham Showground for a community meeting. They wanted answers from the federal and state government on their future. Many have been abandoned and feel left in limbo, their land sterilised by the stroke of a bureaucrat's pen. They are not opposed to the construction of Western Sydney airport; they welcome the jobs and the opportunities it will bring. They simply want answers.

I've spoken in the House in support of the landowners numerous times, I've written dozens of letters to various ministers both state and federal, and I've met with representatives from the New South Wales Department of Planning, Industry and Environment. But, despite all assurances, the situation is not improving. It's quite the opposite, in fact.

When I spoke in October last year on the subject, there was a potential light at the end of the tunnel. Visitors to the department of planning's website could find an FAQ with a section on land acquisitions. Here it referred to the Wianamatta-South Creek Delivery Strategy, a document which was to confirm land uses, access, ownership and management arrangements, with consultation to begin in late 2020. However, don't bother looking for it today. You won't find it, because it's not there. The only reference to the strategy now states that it will set out Wianamatta-South Creek's 'trees, open space and creeks' and how they will be 'managed' into the future and that it will be released sometime this year.

Whether it's land acquisition, the process for priority precincts or simply getting a meeting with those responsible, there seem to be two sets of rules. One is for those with influence—big donors to the Liberal Party who get access to ministers, favourable zoning outcomes and sale prices well exceeding valuations. There's a second rule for ordinary people. This rule gives you radio silence, shifting goalposts and livelihoods destroyed. While the Liberal government doesn't seem to be the least bit interested in the plight of these hardworking men and women, there are some on our side who are. These decisions are affecting real people who have lived in this part of Sydney most of their life. Many are now elderly and forced to stay in homes that no longer cater for their needs, because of stairs and other issues. They're people dying of cancer who want the time they have left to be as stress free as possible. I have heard so many heartbreaking stories. There are too many to mention in the time I have available today.

At the community meeting on Saturday, people were just asking for certainty so they could make their plans for the future. I'm launching this week a petition calling on the New South Wales state government to provide certainty to these landowners under the just terms acquisition act. It's simple: fairness, transparency and a time line. When will the land be purchased, how much will they get, and from whom? All the small landowners want is a fair go and certainty for the future.