MEDIA RELEASE: Ratepayers Will Pay for Wellington Airport’s Folly

Wellington Ratepayers Will Pay for Wellington International Airport’s Folly

19 November 2017 – Wellington International Airport is continuing its cynical campaign to shoehorn Wellington ratepayers into paying for a runway extension, despite having no airline, no business case and no eye to safety concerns raised by pilots, according to concerned ratepayers, community leaders and recreational groups.

Guardians of the Bays, which represents more than 600 recreational, community and ratepayer members, says Wellington Airport’s announcement that it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with a Chinese company to construct the new extension shows it has little respect for the community or the ratepayers.

Guardians of the Bays’ Co-Chair Richard Randerson says WIAL is trying to reinvigorate its extension plans on the back of the Government’s $1 billion regional development fund.

“The questions that residents and ratepayers had prior to the General Election have still not been addressed. There is already evidence that the proposal is likely to cost much more than the $350m originally suggested, up to $500m according to one expert.

“The Environment Court process is not completed, there are still questions about the safety of the airport currently being reviewed by the Supreme Court and there is still no detailed business case.”

Co-Chair Dr. Sea Rotmann says the burden to ratepayers and taxpayers of the proposed extension continues to be unacceptable – particularly as the suggested benefits to Wellington City are anything but guaranteed.

“No airline has committed to flying into an extended airport and the one airline currently flying (via Canberra) is getting very low loadings, according to an independent monitor of routes around the world. Singapore Airlines reduced the number of flights in response to low demand.

“The Airport has specified the limit for its own investment in the extension at $100m now. Anything above this must come from Wellington ratepayers and New Zealand taxpayers. There is still no business case that has gone through the Treasury’s Better Business Case process to prove if it is even eligible for public funding,” she says.

In a meeting with Guardians representatives earlier this year, Mayor Justin Lester said the extension was not likely to happen anytime soon and that Wellington City Council would not commit to providing more than $90m.

“Mayor Justin Lester said that Wellington ratepayers will not be contributing any more money to the Airport’s application process. The Mayor has finally declared enough is enough – Wellington City will not hemorrhage money to support a poorly planned and poorly researched project when many, more critical initiatives need prioritising. So why are he, and WCC CEO Kevin Lavery signing an MoU with a Chinese construction company and airline as if this proposal is a done deal?

“The Council already gave the Airport $3m of ratepayers’ precious money to fund the creation of its reports, which are consistently being shown to be little more than ‘spin’ to support the Airport’s slant on the proposal.

“Infratil, majority owners of Wellington Airport, are offering to put in less than 20 percent. The rest will have to come from ratepayers and taxpayers. That means further increases in rates.

“How can Wellington sell its self as a world-class tourist destination with a strong environmental record when we need to invest so heavily in things that make it just that, such as our infrastructure, earthquake resilience and our performing arts’ venues?”, Dr Rotmann says.

“Other priorities for Council expenditure include affordable housing, reducing traffic congestion – like on the access road to the airport – and improved social services,” says Richard Randerson.

“Ratepayers have consistently rated such items as of greater priority than a runway extension. It is very disappointing that the Mayor and Chief Council Executive should be signing an MOU with a Chinese construction corporation before essential criteria have been met. It makes a mockery of democracy and slants the playing field in favour of an extension before the matter has even been considered by the Environment Court,” he says.



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  1. If the Supreme Court confirm that the Airport needs the maximum RESA recommended by ICAO then the runway will need a 300 M extension anyway otherwise you will be flying to Aussie via Auckland or Christchurch, and you will be flying to both of those in an ATR since neither the A320 nor Boeing 737 will be operate out of Wellington except with half the seats empty which will not be acceptable to the airlines.
    Since the ATR carries less than half the number of seats of the jets you will need more than twice as many flights extending earlier in the morning and later at night to enable all the passengers to go where they want to go. Result is of course more noise especially as the ATR is slower meaning you can hear it longer than a jet as well as the larger number of flights.
    You can also expect more delays as the number of gates at Wellington is limited and under pressure already.
    Well done GOB.


    1. Yeah, you got some things wrong there, Jeff. First of all, we had nothing to do with this Supreme Court case, it is all about safety concerns about the EXTENSION only, brought by the Pilots and Air Traffic controllers and fought by the CAA and WIAL all the way to the Supreme Court. No one complained about current operations, but the airport was trying to force the Transport Minister into changing the law so they could claim they now had to extend for safety reasons, which they never cared about before (this happened after the Court of Appeals decided for NZALPA). You should assess the motivations of the airport a bit more here, rather than question ours or the pilots’. There is also the overlooked detail that the pilots would have been happy with an EMAS, which wouldn’t cost much at all, and which the airport in its infinite arrogance refused to even investigate. So, blaming us or the people in charge for passengers’ safety for imagined additional noise issues and half-empty planes taking off in the future, is going a step too far.


  2. EMAS will still require an extension 70-100 Metres at each end depending on what is required by CAA. Remember you cannot use it for take off which means less payload ie fewer passengers on each flight. Incidentally airports like La Guardia can make do with 50 M but NZALPA want more.
    As EMAS costs more than a standard RESA you might as well just provide the standard 240 M RESA.
    A 240 M RESA will enable Cobham Drive to be bridged unlike an EMAS which would simply replace all or part of the existing RESA.
    In this case you cannot move the northern threshold any further north which mean any extension has to go South. I think you will find the airport did “investigate” but rejected it because you cannot use EMAS for take off unlike a standard grooved asphalt RESA. They probably are looking at it now as a way to reduce additional expenditure.
    The pilots were just trying to stop any long runway at Wellington to prevent any more foreign competition. You are at the same risk flying out of Wellington today in an A320 or B737 (about 40 flights in/out per day) as you would be in an A330 or B777 flying to Singapore off the new runway. Since there would only be 4 long distance flights a week affected you will be much safer and your risk flying in the A320/B737 will be much reduced which is something NZALPA has also kept very quiet.
    Without an extension and assuming the Supreme Court follow the maximum safety implied then a noisy future is in store. 24/7 operations at Wellington may then become a possibility. Enjoy!


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