Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) is putting the proposed Wellington Airport Extension under much needed scrutiny, according to concerned business, community and recreational groups.
GWRC has today revealed it is putting Wellington Airport International Ltd’s resource consent application ‘on hold’ while it seeks further information on more than 46 issues of concern, including economic impacts, traffic issues and effects on recreation, endangered species, the ability to surf in Lyall Bay and the construction process.
Dr Sea Rotmann, co-chair of the Guardians of the Bay, an umbrella group working with residents’ associations, businesses and recreational organisations, said robust scrutiny of WIAL’s public relations was well overdue.
GWRC have made two separate requests for information and has also informed WIAL that it needs at least one additional consent, for stormwater discharge.
“Our City Councillors and most mayoral candidates have failed to apply any level of real scrutiny. It is pleasing to see that the Regional Council is taking the robust approach that we should have seen all along,” Dr Rotmann said.
“Wellington City Councillors and most mayoral candidates have been too quick to just accept a “trust me” approach from a private company to what will be a significant ratepayer investment. We know from Invercargill, Napier and Hamilton that a ‘if they build it, they will come’ attitude to airport extensions does not deliver.
“GWRC is asking some of the vital questions that WIAL has got away with not addressing so far,” Dr Rotmann said.
Bishop Richard Randerson CNZM, co-chair of the Guardians of the Bay, said the proposed airport extension was a concern to all the community, particularly given the amount of public funding required.
“At $350 million, the cost of the proposed runway equates to $1 million for every metre.”
“All Wellingtonians want the city to succeed. The proposed runway extension is being dressed up as the silver bullet but Wellingtonians are not stupid. They know that it will take more than an extra bit of tarmac to create economic riches for everyone. And the airport just posted record growth numbers, especially from international passengers – all without needing a longer runway.”
The Guardians and other groups, including the New Zealand Taxpayers Union and Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce, have raised questions why WIAL’s part owner, Infratil, doesn’t make the investment in the extension if it is such a great idea.
Dr Rotmann said the Government had made it clear that it is unlikely to financially support the runway extension, leaving residential and business ratepayers to carry the burden for years to come.
“Given the Government is unlikely to fund this proposed venture, should the Wellington region’s ratepayers really be providing corporate welfare to Infratil? It is a private company worth more than $1 billion, which recently registered a $496 million profit in the year to the end of March 2016,” Dr Rotmann said.
“Wellingtonians are yet to see an independent, rigorous and robust business case to ensure the promised benefits stand up to scrutiny and that the considerable investment is actually warranted,” Dr Rotmann said.
“Wellington ratepayers have had no assurance from their Council that rates bills won’t rise due to the cost of the proposed runway, nor that we have to pay any shortfall or almost certain cost overruns,” Dr Rotmann said.
“A runway extension will inevitably mean less money for the councils throughout the region to re-invest in local projects in our city, like affordable and healthy housing, improved earthquake resilience and better traffic management.”
“Without proper scrutiny and a proper business case, Wellingtonians will potentially be left with a white elephant on their South Coast, while WIAL and Infratil will be laughing all the way to the bank,” Dr Rotmann said.
For more information: http://www.gw.govt.nz/wellington-airport-runway-extension/