MEDIA RELEASE: Community Groups welcome Wellington Airport Delay at Environment Court


March 21, 2017
Residents and ratepayers group the Guardians of the Bays has welcomed the news that
Wellington Airport will postpone the progression of its runway extension resource
consent in the Environment Court.

In advance of a pre-hearing conference on Thursday, the Airport has announced that it will
withdraw its resource consent application while it appeals to the Supreme Court on
the Court of Appeal ruling that the Civil Aviation Authority must reconsider its
decision on the length of the proposed runway safety area.

Guardians of the Bays’ Co-Chair Richard Randerson said the decision showed that
Wellington Airport’s application was deficient in not considering possible
contingencies such as the Court of Appeal decision.

Wellington Airport has said in its own memo to the court that it will potentially need
to rescope the application or withdraw it completely, if its appeal to the Supreme
Court is unsuccessful.
The Pilots Association case on the safety of the extension was before the courts
well before Wellington Airport lodged its application to the Environment Court. Yet it
still went ahead and used nearly $3 million of ratepayer funding to scope a proposal
which now looks like it will be redundant.
First and foremost, any runway extension must be safe, but to make that happen
Wellington Airport’s budget will need serious review.”

Co-Chair Dr. Sea Rotmann said that the Airport’s decision to withdraw its application
is an opportunity for Mayor Justin Lester and Wellington City Council to seriously
review the City’s commitment to funding this project.

As time marches on, the figures that Wellington Airport put up about the costs
become more out of date. There is already evidence that the proposal is likely to cost
more than the $350m originally suggested. An extension to the runway safety area
would push costs well over the half a billion dollars it is currently expected to reach
and would put the project well outside the parameters of the current Environment
Court application.”

In a meeting with the Guardians last month, Mayor Justin Lester said that the
extension was not likely to happen any time soon and that Wellington City Council
would not commit to providing more than $90m.

We continue to urge the Mayor to take a leadership role for all ratepayers, including
making a public commitment that the Council will not promise more ratepayer money
for an application that has not been well considered.

The Airport has previously specified the limit for its own investment in the extension
at $100m. Anything above this must come from Wellington ratepayers and New
Zealand taxpayers. We won’t know for a while if the Airport plans to proceed if a
longer safety margin is required, but Wellingtonians need to know now that the
Council will not burden ratepayers with additional costs- particularly as the
suggested benefits are nebulous and far from being guaranteed.”