The Australian Government has started the process of a new environmental assessment for the proposed Western Sydney airport at Badgerys Creek.

The government had announced its decision for bringing up the second Sydney airport in April at Badgerys Creek, which is 56km from Sydney central business district and 41km from Kingsford Smith Airport.

Construction of the new airport will be carried out in phases with the initial development cost estimated at $2.4bn. The initial phase will see the construction of a smaller airport with one runway and is expected to create 4,000 jobs.

A referral for the environmental assessment process has been submitted to environment minister Greg Hunt.

"A Western Sydney airport would be a catalyst for growth for Western Sydney, as well as a major employer well into the future."

Minister for infrastructure and regional development of the department of infrastructure and transport Warren Truss said: "This referral for an airport for Western Sydney is a precursor in meeting our environmental obligations and, importantly, in allowing for community consultation. A Western Sydney airport would be a catalyst for growth for Western Sydney, as well as a major employer well into the future.

"Development of the proposed airport would be staged in response to demand, with the first stage operating from one runway. The longer-term vision for the ultimate airport layout would operate with two parallel runways of up to 4,000m in length. The airport would be small scale when it becomes operational from the mid-2020s and would expand as the population of Western Sydney grows to meet the emerging needs of the local community."

The ministry stated that the referral has been informed by previous environmental studies, including the comprehensive 1999 environmental assessment, and that no major impediments had been found in the development of the airport.

A statement from the ministry also said that the community will also be involved at key points throughout the process and that the assessment would consider the environmental, social and economic impacts of both the initial stage development and the ultimate airport development.

Construction of the airport is expected to begin in 2016 and once completed, it is estimated to handle up to 70 million passenger movements annually.