The Dominion Post: Airport plans may create ‘wasteland’

Heather Courtney

FORCED TO SELL: Bridge Street resident Heather Courtney.

AirportMap

The Wellington Airport noise zone.

Heather Courtney says her retirement plans were thrown into disarray by a letter in her mail box this week.

The Bridge St resident is one of 22 home owners on the edge of Wellington Airport’s runway who were told the airport would offer to buy their homes because it could not mitigate noise to an acceptable level.

Mrs Courtney and her husband Phil have lived in Bridge St since 1981 and have spent more than $50,000 renovating their house as a retirement nest egg. They planned to sell up in another seven years or so and retire to Nelson.

They were aware the airport would eventually table an offer to buy their house before 2030, as foreshadowed in its master plan. But the couple figured they had another 15 years or so up their sleeve.

And while that may still be the case, Mrs Courtney says the news this week that 22 houses around hers will begin disappearing as soon as next month, means she and handful of others will soon be living in a “wasteland”.

That would decrease the visual appeal and safety of the street – as well as the value of her house – making it difficult to stay long-term, she said.

“I’m like a lot of people around here. We all thought we had until 2030 before the houses started going. I was talking to my neighbour yesterday who said the same thing. He’s just put a new roof on his house.

“We probably still do, but the airport is making it very difficult to keep living here. We’ll have to find somewhere new to live and I don’t want another mortgage. I want to save for my retirement. I’m quite stressed out at the moment.”

The airport announced on Thursday that up to 700 homes surrounding it have been identified for treatment to mitigate airport noise to an acceptable level of 65 decibels.

The study also identified 44 properties on Bridge St where window seals, ventilation systems and noise insulation would not be effective. The airport owns half of those properties and has given its tenants six months to move out.

The rest will be approached by the airport with an offer to buy their house at fair value.

Chief operating officer John Howarth said he understood the stress residents were feeling, but said no-one would be forced out.

“Property owners on the eastern side of Bridge St have been included as part of the airport’s fair value purchase programme for at least a decade and do not need to move if they wish to stay.

“We understand this very difficult for all residents and will ensure that the areas where dwellings are removed are converted into nicely grassed areas.”

Related stories:

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