The Regional Council last week released a 165-page staff report analysing Wellington Airport’s application for permission to extend its runway.
The report, on the airport’s resource consent application, confirms that of the 776 submissions received, 527 were against the runway extension, 227 were in support of it (either in full or in part), and there were 18 neutral submissions and four conditional.
The airport is seeking permission for reclamation work to be carried out seven days a week, 24 hours a day. The proposed construction programme indicates that reclamation filling could take between 5 and 18 months depending on the source of material. The entire project will take up to four years.
The report refers to 310 trucks per day taking loads from quarries to the reclamation site:
Traffic emissions during construction will arise from trucks transporting fill material to the construction zones at the airport and construction vehicles at the airport construction site…The applicant considers that it is unlikely that there will be any measurable changes in vehicle related combustion emissions from 310 trucks per day…. [An expert] has advised that the covering of loads is “best practice and will satisfactorily mitigate potential fugitive dust over the haul route.”
Though no final decision seems to have yet been made on the use of barges, the airport is expecting that:
between 15 – 25 barges (i.e. 30 – 50 two way movements) will be required to operate each day (over an 18 hour period) over a 5 – 18 month period.
Barges transporting fill material to the construction site will follow the existing shipping route within Wellington Harbour to a point opposite Pencarrow Head. From there, barges will travel across the harbour entrance and around to the construction zone. It is intended that this route on the east side of the bay entrance will minimise disruption to recreational activities in the bay such as surfing, kiteboarding and stand-up paddle boarding.
Among concerns raised in the staff report is the effect of runway reclamation on the city’s wastewater outfall:
The Moa Point wastewater treatment plant coastal outfall passes through the area of the proposed reclamation. In the early phases of the work it is proposed to construct a protection structure over the outfall pipe to avoid damage due to the placement of the dyke and reclamation fill.
And here are the concerns:
The construction of a protection structure over the MOP has the potential for adverse effects on the environment should the works result in damage to the MOP, specifically the discharge of treated wastewater into the CMA at the works location. Further, the runway extension construction works could impact the interceptor main and sludge pipeline.
The application states that the effects of the reclamation construction on the MOP include loading stress on the pipeline and settlement of sediment/gravels under the pipeline. However, the application does not outline the consequences of damage to the pipeline and potential pollution of Lyall Bay of wastewater should this occur. Nor does the applicant recognise the potential for adverse effects on other infrastructure, specifically the interceptor main nd sludge pipeline.
Concerns from the Wellington City Council are described:
Construction activities … could affect the sludge pipeline (which carries sludge to the Southern Landfill) that generally follows Moa Point Road and the wastewater interceptor main under the southern end of the existing
runway that carries sewage to the WWTP. The sludge pipeline is a high
pressure pipeline and any damage or breach of it will result in significant adverse effects on the environment.
In their submission, WCC seek the protection of the pipeline, inceptor main and sludge pipeline in both their physical extents and their operational and maintenance capabilities. The submitter (WCC) states that any damage to the outfall or restriction in being able to maintain and operate the outfall has the potential to cause significant costs to the community in both monetary and environment…
[The city council is] not convinced that ‘burying’ the MOP under the runway reclamation is an acceptable result. A more detailed outline of the process to agree the mitigation and timing of its implementation is considered to be required in the consent conditions.
The airport’s view:
… the MOP will either be protected in place or realigned so that it will not be impacted by the reclamation. It will be up to the form of contract and the final construction programme whether moving (which will require additional consents) or protecting the outfall takes place prior to or concurrent with marine based reclamation works.
The report uses diplomatic words in its summaries. Here’s one of the summaries.
The proposed runway extension and SWFS will likely result in minor
effects in relation to physical disturbance and loss of habitat;
Construction noise, vibration and light will likely result in minor effects on
mammals and fish;
Sediment discharges during ground improvement work, placement of the
rock dyke, earthworks to remove the hillock and as a result of dewatering will likely result in minor effects;
Adverse effects from the proposal on the Taputeranga Reserve are likely to be less than minor.
Over 200 submissions raised concern about construction and operational noise. The report identifies the effect of the construction work on recreational users in the Lyall Bay area. They
… will be exposed to construction and haul route noise. Recreational users on Moa Point Road and beach and the breakwater will experience the highest level of construction noise (up to 60 dB) and haul route noise (61 dB).
But not to worry.
In summary, provided the applicant complies with the recommended conditions of consent, we consider the effects of construction noise on recreational users of the CMA in Lyall Bay will be less than minor.
Effects on recreational users of the CMA at Moa Point is likely to be more than minor given its close proximity to the construction site. Albeit temporary (up to 48 months) construction noise will likely impact recreational amenity in this area
Other effects are identified, including fishing:
The temporary exclusion zone around the proposed runway extension construction site will restrict access to approximately half of the area used for gathering seafood between Moa Point and Hue-te-taha Peninsula during construction (3-4 years).
Access to the surf break Airport Rights will be lost permanently from commencement of the proposed runway construction.
Expert advice from Dr Michael Steven states:
I consider short term effects on water-based recreational activities, such as surfing and gathering kai moana to be more than minor within the areas of the exclusion zones. For some recreationists, such as surfers, adverse effects from the SWFS exclusion zone may be unacceptably adverse in the short term, and unable to be mitigated.
For expert surfers, the loss of the Airport Rights break may be regarded as an unacceptable outcome, and an outcome that is beyond the potential of the SWFS to mitigate.
In summary, we consider the effects on surfing amenity as a result of the proposed runway extension will be more than minor because the Airport Rights surf break will be completely lost and the three other surf spots in Lyall Bay could have a reduction in characteristic surf rides of between 14-29%.
Dr Steven has also advised:
The proposed runway extension will result in highly adverse effects on the biophysical landscape/seascape in Lyall Bay east/Moa Point embayment (compared to the moderate rating applied by the applicant) given the proposal involves a total loss of 10.8ha of marine environment and its replacement with a terrestrial form.
For residents on Moa Point Road and the beach at Moa Point, I consider the effects on views from this area to be extreme, and unable to be remedied or mitigated. As such, I regard these effects as significant and unacceptably adverse.
Another expert considers the effects of the proposal on coastal bird habitat and says these will be more than minor and the potential effects on regional bird populations as a result of increased birdstrike could be significant.
The report however contains no analysis or criticism of the economic benefits being claimed for the longer runway:
With construction costs excluded, the economic wellbeing of the Wellington region has been assessed to improve by $1billion on the most likely scenario, even if that community were to fund the entire cost of the project through local and central taxes. The applicant acknowledges that how the runway extension would be funded is still to be determined.
The Regional Council’s report, in full, is here.