Guardians of the Bays has been successful in similar fights with Wellington Airport and was created to oppose the extension of Wellington Airport into either Evans Bay or Lyall Bay. We became an incorporated society in 2014 with the aim of stopping the proposed 300m plus runway extension into Lyall Bay.
In March 2016 Wellington Airport applied to Wellington City Council and Greater Wellington Council to extend by 355 metres it’s take off runway available into Lyall Bay. This would have resulted in approximately 11 hectares of reclaimed land at the southern end of the Airport runway into the coastal marine environment of Lyall Bay next to Moa Point.
The information supplied for this resource application was unclear and incomplete. It resulted in multiple requests by the councils for Wellington Airport to provide further information to clarify multiple matters in their application.
One thing we do know is if the reclamation had gone ahead it would have resulted in large heavy truck movements through Wellington City carrying fill material both day and night, seven days a week with the only restrictions subject to the resource consent application. It would not have been only the residents around the airport that would have been affected by the airport extension construction.
The proposed extension was meant to open up the airport to long haul flights and create economic benefits. Guardians of the Bays were of the opinion the benefits were extremely dubious and Wellington ratepayers would end up paying increased rates bills to both create and maintain a runway extension that was not required and would hardly be used. We were also concerned that the extension would mean less money for councils through out the region to re-invest in their own local projects.
In October 2016 Wellington Airport lodged a notice for the application to follow the Environment Court or ‘fast track’ process bypassing a council planning hearing. This created a big hurdle for local community submitters as rather than presenting to a local council hearing they would have to prepare for a very formal Environment Court process where lawyers and expert witnesses represent the applicant and submitters.
It was the Pilots Association of New Zealand who took Wellington Airport to the High Court, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court that stopped the Environment Court proceeding. The pilots had grave concerns that the proposed extension which would increase the runway by 363m was to short. Basically the proposal was not safe and their were significant safety hazards that were not being considered with this extension especially if you wanted long haul flights to land and take off from Wellington Airport.
Guardians of the Bays went to various Environment Court hearing days on what seemed like a six month basis between 2017 and 2019. The Environment Court became as annoyed at us at the ongoing delay. It was clear that evidence written in 2016 would no longer be relevant three to four years later. The supposed fast track to the Environment Court had become snail pace awaiting various court cases and ultimately a CAA decision on the Runway Safety Area. We would have thought that Wellington Airport would have considered safety at the very start of the proposed extension design.
We won our fight against this extension on April 2019 when Wellington Airport withdrew its runway extension resource consents application. We have to thank the NZ Pilots Association in their ongoing fight to improve safety of our airports and push Wellington Airport to withdraw their ill conceived runway extension proposal.