An independent study has recommended that a site be identified for a new airport in Sydney to meet long-term growth demands for air travel into the country's main gateway.
The report, which was initiated by the national and New South Wales state governments, said passenger demand in the Sydney region is forecast to more than double by 2035 to 87 million passengers. It would then double again by 2060.
"A long-term strategy is needed to meet this growth," Australia's transport minister Anthony Albanese said in a statement. "Aviation services are an essential part of a modern economy. This is particularly the case for Sydney, which is a commercial and financial hub, a major centre for service industries and a major tourist destination."
The report recommends that the existing Sydney airport be allowed to operate to its full capacity. The role of the other airports in Sydney should be "protected and expanded", and that a site for a new airport be identified to "meet long-term growth" demands.
Failure to increase capacity would result in Australia losing Australian dollars (A$) 6 billion ($6.47 billion) in GDP by 2035, with New South Wales itself likely to lose A$2.3 billion.
"Spare landing and take-off slots are already limited in the peak hours. By 2015, Sydney airport will be severely constrained at peak times and by around 2030 no new growth will be possible," said Albanese.
He added that the report did not recommend any changes to the curfew, and that increasing the cap in peak hours would make little difference.
"We will also maintain the current protections for regional airlines and Bankstown airport will not be developed as Sydney's second airport. Further, I have consistently stated that the government has ruled out the use of the Badgerys Creek site as a second airport and that remains our position," he said, referring to a suggestion from several quarters on alternatives to the existing airport.