“Wellington City Council has no Plan B to protect Wellington’s ratepayers if the Wellington Airport Extension doesn’t deliver,” according to business, recreational, community and environmental groups who are calling for more rigour around the proposal.
The Guardians of the Bays, a citizen-led umbrella organisation representing a growing number of groups of businesses and individuals who are concerned the runway extension will not deliver the benefits being promised by Wellington International Airport Limited and some City Councillors.
Co-chairs Dr Sea Rotmann and Richard Randerson said the airport is being presented to the public as Wellington’s main economic growth option.
“We are all keen on a progressive and successful Wellington. But the numbers being put up for this proposal simply don’t stack up.
“The Council has promised $90 million of ratepayer money, on top of $3 million already handed over to the airport, for a runway extension that has no business case. The Airport has refused to put its numbers under the scrutiny of the Government’s own Better Business Case process, which is required for getting Central Government funding.”
“Economically, the runway extension has the potential to lump Wellington ratepayers with a wasteful and unnecessary White Elephant requiring significant ratepayer subsidies and hindering economic growth for decades. Ratepayers throughout the region will be faced with higher rates and debt and there is no guarantee that any benefits will flow through to Wellingtonians.
“The only one who really wins from this extreme version of corporate welfare is Infratil” said Mr Randerson.
Dr Rotmann said the Airport has been over-exaggerating the tourism and visitor benefits.
“There is no evidence that if ‘you build it they will come’. The Singapore Airlines ‘win’ to fly to Singapore via Canberra comes at the cost of millions of ratepayer subsidies to the airline and is of no more benefit to Wellingtonians than already-available international flights through Auckland, Sydney or Melbourne,” she said. Singapore Airlines itself said it would not be able to fly this route without the additional passenger numbers from Canberra.
“If the airport extension is such a good idea then why is Infratil not paying for it, rather than relying on corporate welfare from ratepayers and taxpayers?
“We call on all mayoral and council candidates to demonstrate a deeper vision of what growing our city could look like, rather than just pinning it all on an airport extension.
“So far only a handful have said the airport extension needs closer scrutiny and questioned whether ratepayers should provide corporate welfare to Infratil to build it. It should be noted that some of those same mayoral candidates now asking more searching questions, voted for ratepayers to pay half of the airport’s resource consent application costs, even though the City only owns a third of the shares. We need a mayor and councillors that act in the best interests of all Wellingtonians, not just big business.”
Dr Rotmann said there will be many environmental and recreational impacts. The proposal would affect surfers, recreational fishers and other users of Lyall Bay. It will also harm sensitive ecological and environmental treasures, including little blue penguins, reef herons, giant kelp forests and other marine life that would suffer enormously from millions of tonnes of rubble being dumped into the South Coast. 11ha of ocean would need to be reclaimed without having a single airline lining up to fly here long-haul.
The proposal would also cause major traffic disruptions to Wellingtonians during the four-year construction period, as up to one truck every two minutes transfers material to and from the site, via SH1, the two tunnels, the Basin reserve and through the airport gates.
“This is a Wellington-wide issue. The Greater Wellington Regional Council and Wellington City Council officers who are currently checking the airport’s resource consent application have found many significant errors and gaps in the airport’s supporting evidence,” Dr Rotmann said.
“Wellingtonians have the right to know how their money is being spent. By refusing to properly answer the questions the Regional Council has asked on behalf of everyone, the Airport is failing to respect this right. The airport is either being highly disrespectful of the process or simply doesn’t have the answers,” she said.
The Guardians are encouraging Wellingtonians to have their say about the extension by making submissions to the Greater Wellington Regional Council and Wellington International Airport. The submission period runs until Friday 12 August.
A simple guideline for how to submit and where to send submissions can be found below.
“This is such an important decision for Wellington that we need to capture as broad a range of perspectives and views as possible,” said Dr Rotmann.