Guardians taking Wgtn Airport to Environment Court – appealing against expansion

Guardians of the Bays has lodged an appeal with the Environment Court against Wellington International Airport Limited’s aggressive and unsustainable expansion plan.

The Airport’s plan Notice of Requirement for the East Side Area removes the buffer area that exists between the airport and the community of Strathmore Park to the east; putting much larger jet aircraft on the edge of one of Wellington’s poorest communities,.

Guardians of the Bays Co-Chair Yvonne Weeber

Under the plan, Wellington Airport says passengers will double to 12 million by 2040 while at the same time claiming airport ‘operational’ emissions will fall by 30% by 2030.

“This is laughable: You can’t ‘airport’ your way out of a climate crisis”, Weeber said.

The environmental, health, and social costs of Wellington Airport’s plans fall well beyond just the neighbouring communities of Strathmore and Kilbirnie, says Weeber.

The community get vastly increased levels of noise, air and light pollution, and traffic congestion; New Zealand as a whole gets significantly increased greenhouse gas emissions as well; and the Airport gets to make more money off the back of those two things.

Weeber says the Airport could hardly have picked a poorer neighbourhood to bear the brunt of its proposed expansion.

This reads like a real-life retelling of The Castle: Strathmore Park is one of the most socio-economically deprived areas in Wellington, and the majority of the worst-affected locals are Kāinga Ora tenants without a voice and without the means to fight. We’ve got to help them and future generations to tell the Airport ‘they’re dreamin’.

Detail/Appeal grounds

Guardians of the Bays will ask the Environment Court to overturn the Notice of Requirement for the East Side Area expansion on a number of grounds, including –

  • The removal of the existing buffer from the District Plan that separates the community of Strathmore Park from the Airport’s operational activities;
  • The devastating effects on surrounding neighbourhoods of increased noise, reduced amenity, increased dust, visual disturbance, light pollution;
  • Vastly increased traffic congestion that the Airport have no concrete plans to manage;
  • The lack of information on how environmental impacts of stormwater, earthworks, sediment and dust are to be managed;
  • The lack of consideration or information on air discharge from airport operations right next to neighbouring Strathmore Park Residents pollution – including largely Kianga Ora owned social housing;
  • No means of residents complaining about excessive noise and environmental issues if this expansion goes ahead;
  • No agreement to maintain the long standing and hard contested public connection of vehicles, cycles and pedestrians between Broadway and Moa Point on the East Side of Wellington Airport; and
  • No commitment to support New Zealand’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions and be carbon neutrality by 2050 by Wellington Airport or airlines using their facilities.

Background

Guardians of the Bays (GotB) is an incorporated society set up to reduce the adverse effects that arise from Wellington International Airport Limited (WIAL).

Wellington International Airport Limited (WIAL) applied for two a Notices of Requirement (NOR) of the Main Site (existing airport) and the East Side Area (ESA) to Wellington City Council (WCC) for to designate both areas for airport purposes on 25 February 2020.

GotB submitted on both the NOR Main Site and the NOR SEA.

The NOR ESA is on half the southern end of Miramar Golf Course and WIAL sought to use this recreational buffer area as tarmac for plane taxiways, movements and parking next to an extended terminal building.
This land has historically provided a buffer between the Airport and the community to the east, and the need for such a buffer has long been considered a necessity by policy makers at the Wellington City Council, as evidenced under the current District Plan:

  • Rule 10.2.2.2 of the WCC District Plan sets out that the Council will “Provide for the ongoing use of the Golf Course and recreation activities within the buffer of land to the east of the Airport area” and recognises that “The existing Golf Course provides a buffer between the Residential Areas and the Airport operations”.
  • Rule 10.2.5.2 advises that the Council will “Ensure a reasonable protection of residential and school uses from Airport activities by providing controls on bulk and location, ensuring sufficient space is available for landscape design and screening, and by retaining a buffer of land of a recreational nature to the east of the Airport.”

The NOR ESA seeks to do away with this land buffer, as if they were never really any need for it in the first place, or as if it were simply a ‘nice to have’. In this regard, the NOR ESA is completely at odds with the intent of the existing WCC District Plan that set a clear expectation that a buffer was a ‘must have’.

GotB was a submitter to both NORs and opposed the East Side Area on a number of areas including climate change, noise, sustainability, environmental, health and welfare of the surrounding community.
WCC’s experts initial finding was that the NOR ESA should be withdrawn unless appropriate noise and climate change conditions were developed and accepted under section 171(2)(c) of the Resource Management Act 1991.

However, the Independent Panel recommendations to WIAL after, submissions, three days of hearing and additional expert conferencing were for the approval of the NOR ESA and the NOR Main site with minor adjustments

WIAL has since approved the NOR ESA and NOR Main Site.

It is WIAL’s decision to approve the NOR ESA that GotB is appealing to the Environment Court.

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