Residents and ratepayers group Guardians of the Bays has welcomed indications from Wellington Mayor Justin Lester that the proposed $300+ million Wellington Airport runway extension is not a priority for the City Council’s 2017-18 spending.

Guardians of the Bays Co-Chair Dr Sea Rotmann said the group was pleased to see Lester making moves to better prioritise the spending of ratepayers’ money.

“The fact that the Mayor has commissioned a review and wants to cut spending by $8 million is good news for Wellington ratepayers, but at the same time there are a lot of projects demanding Council support and we still need a firm list of priorities.

“There are major infrastructure projects that must take precedence this year, such as the emergency reservoir, which we are pleased to see the Mayor has flagged as a priority. The recent earthquakes have also added a major new priority to Council expenditure.”

Co-Chair Richard Randerson added that the Mayor appeared to be picking up the sentiments shared at his Wellington Summit, held in early December last year.

“The findings from the Summit show where the priorities lie for those living and working in Wellington. Serious issues including housing, traffic congestions, public transport and earthquake resilience are priorities, along with ideas for sustainable growth for Wellington and the wider region.

“For the Guardians, and the residents and ratepayers we represent, our priority has always been to see growth in the region to attract visitors and tourists. However, this should not entail a costly project like the runway extension and long-haul flights for which there is no demand. Seeing as there had to be a $9m ratepayer handout to Singapore Airlines to attract the ‘Capital Express’ route and that Jetstar recently cancelled its Wellington – Melbourne flights due to lack of demand, it is clear that long-haul flights should not be on our list of priorities as a City.

“Attendees at the Mayor’s summit seem to have acknowledged that the Council is facing “community apathy for large transport projects” – we want to see our money spent on the projects that will genuinely provide long-term benefits to the city, not vanity projects and corporate welfare.”

The Guardians of the Bays are continuing to fundraise and work with the local community to help individuals and families oppose the Airport’s resource consent for the runway extension in the Environment Court later this year.