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Spatial anxieties and the changing landscape of an Australian airport

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International trends in airport privatisation and commercialisation have prompted claims that changes to aviation business disrupt local place attachments, social and economic activities, and planning regimes. This paper reflects on such matters with reference to a proposal for major commercial development at Hobart International Airport in Tasmania. First, we outline provisions under the Australian Government's Airports Act 1996 that exempt airport land from State and municipal planning systems, and summarise some of the criticisms levelled against the legislation. Our purpose in doing so is to highlight the point that such critique tends to divert attention from an apparent reluctance by state and local governments to embrace regional planning regimes that might have better prepared them for airport privatisation and commercialisation, and their effects on social and economic activity in adjacent areas. That discussion is then illustrated by reference to Hobart International Airport and Hansard and newspaper reports for and against one particular development there. Irrespective of the merits or drawbacks of the development, we submit that the case exemplifies a double failing of policy and legislation. The net effect of this has been to exacerbate a range of spatial anxieties: fears and uncertainty about the penetration of 'elsewhereness' and the destabilisation of belonging to place. Such failing, we suggest, may be part of a larger problem related to the question of how to properly account for local geographies of belonging and the complex and heterogeneous spaces in which planning and policy take shape and are practised.

Keywords: Commonwealth Airports Act 1996; Hobart International Airport; Privatisation; geographies of belonging; regional planning; spatial anxieties

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Tasmania, Australia

Publication date: March 1, 2009

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