Monthy Python & the Wellington Runway Extension: Someone should trophy hunt this white elephant


Tidiothe bumbling shambles that is the Wellington International Airport and Wellington City Council’s pipe dream for an airport expansion rolls on with more misinformation and lack of co-ordination by the various parties no doubt costing us millions of dollars with absolutely nothing to show for it but a report that says we shouldn’t go there.

The Prime Minister won’t back it, the Economics Minister won’t back it, the Community doesn’t back it (Our Long Term Plan feedback was 81% opposed), the Airlines don’t back it, the Airline Industry doesn’t back it, even WIAL are not prepared to pay their share to build it, Air New Zealand have said that even if it is built they won’t use it as a hub, and in the last few weeks the entire extension has been taken to the High Court over safety concerns by the New Zealand Airline Pilot’s Association.

This is a white elephant growing larger by the day.

The Guardians of the Bays, a residents group that has broad support from both local neighbours on all sides, the rest of the city and region, and wider, fired up their website this week with a lot of very interesting information. What is very very interesting is that all the Long Term Plan (LTP) feedback shows that more than 81% of us don’t want it.

A bit of a problem for the Council that has now sunk millions and millions of our taxpayer dollars into a project that really should probably be thrown on the back burner for a few years. But that would out egg on Celia and Justin’s faces, and we can’t have that.

Justin Lester is in fact, completely re-writing history, or trying to:

“Consultation hasn’t started, because we don’t have a project. We’ll absolutely be talking to everybody when the process comes underway, then there will be a community consultation.” – Source

So is Justin suggesting that the formal LTP feedback on the runway extension was not consultation and doesn’t count?

I guess that would be handy, given that the feedback is overwhelmingly against the idea.

Then there was the three hundred and fifty submissions on a longer airport that were collected through the shiny long term plan website. Again, majority opposed and lots of questions. And, again, not counted as formal submissions by the Council even though the website alluded to them being just that.

The airport was working closely with Moa Point Rd residents before the wider public consultation began and would be holding another meeting with them in the next month to put forward a proposal addressing concerns raised at previous meetings.

I hear rumor that they are working on some kind of buy out plan. If that is true, then that would make the entire process a lot smoother, now wouldn’t it. I stress that is rumor.

The New Zealand Airline Pilots’ Association (NZALPA) technical director Rob Torenvlied said the safety area in Wellington was currently 90 metres.

He said he believed the law meant any extension should first include a Runway End Safety Area (RESA) of 240 metres, or an equivalent solution such as crushable concrete, which he said was considered international best practice. – Source

The first of many legal challenges no doubt. Basically they are saying that any extension should put safety first and that will eat up a significant proportion of the extension.

Now there is trickiness, it would seem, going on in the halls of power because you will remember that as part of the LTP the Council agreed to paying $90 million, directly going against our consultation feedback, if the business case stacked up, resource consent was made, and we have a committed airline. 

Council will want to see that the business case is compelling, the resource consent has been approved and we have a satisfactory airline commitment. We will not be spending ratepayer dollars on an extension until these issues have been resolved. – Source

What I hear is that the resource consent is likely to be jumped by the airport and Council going straight to the Environment Court. So if that is true, then they have broken one promise already.

I also hear that trying to get the Terms of Reference for the Business Case is being met with heavy resistance. So much for transparency. It will be argued that the Terms of Reference could skew the Business Case in favour of the airport and Council.

Apparently it is also earning itself a new nickname, the runway that is, being termed the “skateboard runway.” The mind boggles. Does that mean it will have a ramp at either end similar to an aircraft carrier or something else?

As to an airline, Helene Ritchie point out recently that a local Taupo airline was now flying to Wellington, and did that count? Tongue in cheek of course, but still, you have to wonder.

I am going to try and catch up with the airport in the next couple of weeks to get their side, because from this angle, it just seems mad.

After a week where the Council voted against nuclear weapons and to put a camp site next to the tip, confidence is low.

All of this leads me to the following skit. I want you to replace “Parrot” with “Airport Extension”.

Have a great weekend.