Airport forum not on Council’s agenda

Ben Price
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Penrith Mayor John Thain threatened to clear the Council chambers on Monday night after anti-airport hecklers continued to shout abuse during proceedings.

Protesters opposed to the Western Sydney Airport descended on Council’s chambers to see whether their calls for a public forum would finally be realised.

But in what is being labelled a “cop out”, they were left disappointed again after Councillors resolved to ask the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development (DIRD) to hold an information session instead.

Labor Councillor Ben Price disagreed with the majority stance, saying a forum was “overdue” and it was time for Council to face its constituents.

“We owe it to the people of Penrith to be totally transparent,” he said.

Cr Marcus Cornish agreed.

“We’re supposed to be here to represent the people, not to avoid them,” he said.

Marcus Cornish. Photo: Melinda Jane

However, Councillor Greg Davies said no amount of “jumping up and down” would stop the airport being built, adding it would be a “no airport forum” and achieve “absolutely nothing” because the information will be “drowned out”.

“I’m not 100 per cent behind it but the decision has been made,” he said.

“Now we need to make sure we don’t get thrown under the bus.”

But action groups on the ground claim Penrith residents are poorly informed and need “real information”, not for the “gloss” dished out by DIRD or media spin.

“It’s got to cover the negatives and the positives,” President of No Badgerys Creek Airport Inc Andrea Grieve stressed.

Cr Crameri, who has repeatedly requested Council hold a public forum, said major ramifications, such as potentially deadly air pollution from trucks carting diesel to the planes, has been swept under the rug.

Councillor Aaron Duke said it was clear from the age of the members in the gallery that young people’s voices were lost in the debate, and suggested looking at other options than “rocking up to a forum”.

Kevin Crameri. Photo: Melinda Jane

Council believes its community engagement activities, which have so far included social media posts, community newspaper articles, a dedicated webpage, mayoral columns and media releases, and postcard distribution, among others, are “far superior” in terms of their reach than a forum would be.

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