Guardians of the Bays are considering their options after hearing that Wellington International Airport (WIAL) have today accepted the Notice of Requirement (NOR) and airport expansion on the Eastern Side of the Airport into the Miramar Golf Course.

The hearing of WIALs NOR expansion plans faced a large number of objections and criticism from the community and environmental groups due to the lack of consideration of climate change, community amenity (especially noise) and long term economic resilience.

The expansion is based on bogus forecasts of passenger numbers doubling by 2040, and lack of climate change modelling that doesn’t take into account significant climate change policy changes and air travel reductions through out the world.

Guardians of the Bays Co-Chair Yvonne Weeber wonders “What planet are they on?”. The expansion should be considered a pipe dream of days long past. “It’s going to cost hundreds of millions, with ratepayers possibly underwriting a significant amount of this expansion. People are reducing their air travel and it’s going to become the dictionary definition of a stranded asset. WIAL should be working with the community to increase amenity rather than reducing it with this Eastern Side Airport expansion”.

Yvonne Weeber
Co-Chair Guardians of the Bays
Phone 0272225390

Jeff Weir
Executive Member Guardians of the Bays and Strathmore Park Resident
Phone 021 0252 3031

In August last year, the Wellington City Council declared a climate emergency, and released a blueprint outlining intentions and objectives to make the city carbon neutral by 2050. With a 30 year horizon, it was hard to get past the irony of the program name “Te Atakura, First to Zero.” Hopefully, by then, Wellington will not be first to zero, as many cities will have reached that goal much earlier. But it was a start, and intentions were clearly laid out.

There was therefore a lot of anticipation about the implementation plan, meant to articulate how we planned to achieve these targets. But despite the climate emergency, there hasn’t yet been much sign of urgency.

It wasn’t till one year later (on August 6 2020), that the implementation plan was released, without any media announcement. So it was mostly unnoticed, which might have been intentional – the document is 55 pages long and its lack of ambition is shocking when considering what’s at stake. It’s empty of real actions that could change the course of Wellington’s greenhouse gas emissions and ensure the city does its part to mitigate climate change.

What should we have been able to expect from the implementation plan? There should be binding, bold and clearly aligned actions for the council to deliver, with requirements and delivery strongly linked. According to this document, most of the emissions are coming from transport, so this is where the strongest actions should have been found. Alas, the plan is full of “advocating” with plenty of “investigating opportunities”. In other words, the strategy relies on “best efforts” and “best intentions”.

On page 12, it states:

“… Transportation: At 53% of the city’s emissions, we need a rapid reduction in fossil fuel vehicles in favour of public transport, electric vehicles, shared mobility, cycling, walking and remote working. Aviation and marine account for almost 20% of this sector, but have limited immediately available solutions; therefore a move away fossil fuel road vehicles will need to be the biggest challenge of this decade.”

The airport’s emissions, which amount to 20% of Wellington transport emissions (25% of ALL emissions according to other reports) are left unaddressed. For the remaining 80%, the only substantial actions are more cycleways, and rapid transit which as we sadly know won’t see daylight for at least another 10 years and are far from under the Council’s control.

The implementation plan sees great opportunities in switching to electric vehicles which will be achieved by:

“… advocating to central Government for regulatory and policy changes for EVs and renewable electricity generation”

To say this is underwhelming is a euphemism: the Council is not committing to do anything but watch and advocate, debate and identify opportunities. Yet, countless cities have already set a firm timeframe to ban fossil-fuel from CBD streets in 2030, some by 2025.

This implementation plan was the perfect opportunity for Wellington to issue a similar statement, as suggested by Councillor Tamatha Paul:

“… Auckland City have committed to being fossil-fuel free CBD streets by 2030. I want us to declare the same thing.”

The implementation plan was the precise moment to declare exactly that, followed by a by-law to make it certain. Additionally, since EVs are the answer to less emissions, the council could have committed to make the new tunnel dedicated to EVs only, should the tunnel come before rapid transit. This is a missed opportunity.

Thankfully, the plan outlines one very sensible measure on page 18:

“Incentivising city-wide remote working – has the potential to reduce city-wide emissions …”

Yet this has been contradicted by some councillors who have called for the exact opposite after the lockdown, to “save the CBD” (suburban businesses, you’re on your own!) The Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency is even spending $75,000 to attract people back into the CBD. As does the mayor, who is calling for people to come back into the CBD:

“GREAT to be down to Covid Level One. Now let’s have all our people back in town – our business community and their employees need us all doing that! …”

Of course, the elephants in the room are the big contributors to the GHG emissions: aviation and marine activities. Here, while 92% of the public says emissions must be reduced “no matter what” (page 15), the Council decides … to do nothing, despite the 92 per cent, and despite the very real threat of climate change. This is behaviour commonly known as “procrastination’ that has led to the climate debacle we are in, a crisis so severe that experts estimate its economic cost will be 5 to 6 times the cost of COVID-19.

As suggested several times, the only way forward, if Wellington is serious about reducing its GHG, is to put a sinking cap on emissions from these big polluters. While not stopping people from flying, it would force the industry to adapt to the pollution it is responsible for. The Council should create a framework to contain the emission of its two biggest polluters, located in the middle of the city.

This is a timely reminder that, while the city has been trying to bring down its emissions, the airport’s have gone up by a staggering 45% since 2001, and will increase even more if the expansion plan goes ahead. In a time of climate emergency, the Council could commit to not issuing resource consents for the Airport’s expansion. Upon arrival of clean planes , the growth could resume, with strict conditions that emissions don’t increase.

Even with its core operations (“The Council itself”, page 36), the Council fails to set ambitious actions. It starts with a 2030 goal to convert its transport fleet to electric (page 39):

“Alongside identifying opportunities to reduce the size of the Council’s vehicle fleet, a December 2030 timeframe has been proposed to replace all Council owned fossil fuel driven cars, SUVs, vans and utes with zero emission electric replacements. Electrifying the fleet has the potential to reduce our corporate transport carbon emissions …”

While this is laudable (but note the “identifying opportunities” part), why did it stop there. There should be a change to the procurement process for subcontractors, setting up a minimum share of electrified tools, trucks and machinery to be eligible to work for the Council. A gradual increase over the years (20% minimum by 2025, 40% by 2027, etc) would give a firm indication to the industry it is time to undertake the transition, beyond the narrow perimeter of the Council owned fleet.

Finally, the implementation plan is not supported by reliable numbers. It starts, on page 12, by confusing the efforts that will be required, by which decade:

“… Council has committed to ensuring Wellington is a net zero emission city by 2050, with a commitment to making the most significant cuts (43% [from 2001]) in the next 10 years.”

The problem is that a couple of lines below, a table shows that Wellington has already reduced emissions by 10% in 2020 from 2001. With a reduction target of 43% by 2030 from 2001, the reduction between 2020 and 2030 is of 33 points. In the same table, the reduction target between 2040 and 2050 is of 32 points (from 68% to 100%). So, in this plan, the reduction efforts will be steep (33 points) between now and 2030, then relax a little (25 points), then steep again (32 points)! These numbers contradict the story that the commitment will be more significant in the first 10 years – 32 points (or a 43% reduction compared to 2001) is what’s needed to get to zero in 2050.

On page 18, the plan sums up all the 28 actions it has listed and concludes it has the potential to reduce emissions by … 14%! In other words, the implementation plan, with all its advocating, recognizes it will fail:

“This plan includes 28 committed and recommended actions with associated GHG reductions that can be measured. These actions are estimated to result in an 80,043 tCO2e reduction per annum, or a 14% reduction, in city-wide emissions from 2001 levels at 2030”

So the actions are not only unambitious and weak, but also they are insufficient to reach the targets the 2019 blueprint has set out … How can we, as a city, can be satisfied with that?

Overall, the implementation plan is a missed opportunity. It reiterates some lukewarm targets, set a year ago, and does not contain any new meaningful actions to significantly curb emissions in Wellington. It leaves the market to act on its own, and it hopes that Central Government will do the hard work, which makes the City Council a simple observer, with plenty of advocating to do.

Can Councillors and the Mayor say they are truly satisfied with it? Do they think it really lays mechanisms to curb the city’s emissions “no matter what”? Is there something more coming (another document?) which will gives confidence that climate change will not be left to luck in Wellington? Everyone knows that “economic urgency” is not enough to justify lack of action, so why is this plan so pale?

By Tom Hunt and Thomas Manch, January 8, 2019

Sea​ Rotmann has six more months of uncertainty after a decision allowing Wellington Airport long-lingering runway extension application to remain on hold until May.

Further down Rotmann’s seaside road, it is six more months of  sleepless nights and “wondering what the hell is going to happen” for Martyn Howells.

The Moa Point residents’ lives have been thrown deeper into limbo after the Environment Court agreed to keep Wellington Airport’s resource consent application on hold, while it waits for a decision from the CAA director.

In that December decision, the court made the unusual move of ruling against Guardians of the Bays – the group opposing the extension – but awarding them costs.

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Sea Rotmann from Moa Point is unhappy, as the resource consent process for Wellington Airport's runway extension has been granted another six months.
Sea Rotmann from Moa Point is unhappy, as the resource consent process for Wellington Airport’s runway extension has been granted another six months.

​Rotmann, a doctor in marine ecology by trade who has lived on Moa Point Rd for 15 years, supplied an affidavit to the court.

These past few years as the application to extend the runway worked its way through courts has seen her become an expert in legal processes. It seems she could talk in legalese for hours.

She appreciated the court awarding costs but granting the extension meant more hell for residents. If the airport had been forced to go back to square one there would have been a break from the constant litigation, she believed.

“It would remove stress for us for several years not being involved in litigation.”

She had planned to live there for the rest of her life and planned to build a a “super efficient hobbit hole” in the hill above. Instead, she feels like she is living in The Castle, a cult movie about a man battling an airport trying to take his home from him.

The view from Te Raekaihau Point with an extended Wellington Airport runway.
The view from Te Raekaihau Point with an extended Wellington Airport runway.


“I do feel like this is David versus Goliath.”

A few homes down, Howells paraphrased a judge: “The sword of Damocles has been hung over our heads”.

“It gives you sleepless nights … you don’t know where you are going to end up. It’s just the uncertainty.”

If the runway went ahead he would likely be allowed to stay in his home but it would mean his view across Cook Strait to the Kaikōura ranges would be replaced by a runway. There would also be years of construction noise.

To Rotmann the noise would make it either legally, or practically, impossible to stay in the home she hoped to die in.

Sea Rotmann standing in front of her Moa Point home.
Sea Rotmann standing in front of her Moa Point home.


And the Environment Court has shown some contrition for Rotmann and Howells’ position, in granting the Guardians of the Bay costs despite their losing the case.

“We appreciate that it is unusual to reserve costs in favour of unsuccessful parties, however their applications were made for understandable reasons … They should not have to carry any cost in this situation.”

Lawyer for Guardians of the Bay, James Gardner-Hopkins, asked the court to strike out the airport’s extension request, but was rejected.

A 90-metre runway end safety area at each end, as part of the prior resource consent application, was ticked off by Civil Aviation Authority’s director, but overturned by the Supreme Court in December 2017.

Wellington Airport said it would resubmit its application to the director, hoping for an October 31, 2018 decision. This did not happen, and an extension until May 31, 2019 was sought.

An artist impression of the improvements planned for Moa Point Rd as part of the Wellington Airport runway extension project. The design features a new shared promenada, seating, a photography area and water access platforms.
An artist impression of the improvements planned for Moa Point Rd as part of the Wellington Airport runway extension project. The design features a new shared promenada, seating, a photography area and water access platforms.

The court determined the resource consent would remain “on hold” until May, despite it being “the less unsatisfactory of the two unsatisfactory options before us”.

The court also noted “significant concern” with the accuracy of technical reports underpinning the application, now three-to four-years out of date.

“We have no doubt that many of the participants in these proceedings will have ‘had enough’.

“It reflects badly on the administration of justice when proceedings become as prolonged as these have and we accept that there is a consequential adverse and real effect on the community which arises as a result of the delay.”

Steve Sanderson, chief executive of Wellington International Airport, said the decision was positive “especially given the overwhelming support from Wellingtonians for direct long haul flights.”

“As with any large infrastructure project of this nature, we’ve always recognised this is a long-term process and there will be challenges along the way.

“Our team has also worked tirelessly to get the runway extension to this point and we remain committed to bringing the project to fruition and delivering the benefits for Wellington, the region and the country.

“We now await a decision by the Civil Aviation Authority on its review of the length of the runway end safety area for the project.”

* An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Wellington Airport had been granted six extra months to submit resource consent documents

[Ed: note that some typos and mistakes have been corrected and explanatory commentary has been inserted, where relevant]

There will be no satisfactory outcome when a final decision on the Wellington Airport extension resource consent is released, an Environment Court judge has said.

Wellington Airport

Wellington Airport Photo: Supplied

At a judicial conference in the Environment Court, Judge Brian Dwyer heard from opponents who want the resource consent thrown out and Wellington Airport, who want a further six-months to file an application for resource consent.

In March this year, the airport asked for proceedings to be put on hold until October as it dealt with a supreme court ruling about the proposed length of the runway, but now it wasn’t expecting a decision from the Civil Aviation Authority until May [Ed: not March] next year.

Lawyer for Guardians of the Bay and Hue Tē Taka, James Gardiner-Hopkins said it was “deja vu” being back in the courtroom.

He argued that the resource consent had been sought under a direct referral – where the consent is decided by the Environment Court rather than the local council – in order to speed up the process, but that had not happened.

Many of the technical reports were out of date and it would be better to start afresh with a new resource consent that would go through the council, Mr Gardiner-Hopkins said.

“With a restart, there is a greater possibility of community participation.”

“[It will be] a rejuvenated process rather than one that has been left to languish”

Judge Dwyer said it would be almost four years from when the consent was first lodged by the time a decision on the resource consent was made.

He raised concerns that there would have been new residents that had moved to the area in that time who would not have been consulted with.

Legal representatives for Wellington Airport said the company “was anxious to move on with the project but circumstances were out of its control.” [Ed: Choosing to wait until their judicial review over pilots’ safety concerns, which the airport lost in the Supreme Court, was concluded would have meant the circumstances would have been entirely in its control]

They said the company could provide an economic assessment and route development assessment by March.

They refuted Mr Gardiner-Hopkings argument that the legal process was causing stress for his clients, because they said all they were required to do was read reports. The comment drew heckles from Guardians of the Bay members in the room. [Ed: rightfully so]

Wellington Airport lawyers said they have every intention to reapply if the consent is struck-out. [Ed: intention to bully the Judge and residents, that is, but very little evidence was provided that they were actually serious about it]

Jump Jet, a developing regional airline, also submitted against the consent because, it told the court, it couldn’t attract investors until a decision was made.

Judge Dwyer reserved his decision but not before addressing members of the public in the room.

“It doesn’t matter how you look at it, it is totally unsatisfactory – it’s a bit like being in a legal spiders web.”

Outside the courtroom, chair of Guardians of the Bay Dr Sea Rotmann said she was happy with how the day’s proceedings went.

“He will hopefully agree with us that enough is enough and [after] four plus years of a direct referral, that could have been avoided [Ed: not “done”] in the first place if the airport had done its due diligence [Ed: in terms of getting CAA approval over safety right, first].”

She said the community were suffering from “litigation fatigue” after years of the drawn out process and starting again would mean less strain on community resources.

“There is a huge difference in starting it afresh with all the extra money that they are going to need to spend on publicising it – including the council – versus having all the onus on us having to drag the zombie corpses out of the graves [Ed: a colourful way of saying “stale data and proceedings] and do the work for the airport, basically.”

In a statement Wellington Airport said it “is committed to bringing the project to fruition and delivering the benefits for Wellington, the region and the country.” [Ed: translated to mean to bring benefits for its multi-national corporate shareholders by being able to fleece all users of the airport with increased charges]

“There is overwhelming support from Wellingtonians for direct long haul flights. The business community, tertiary and education institutes, tourism organisations and the creative and film sector have all submitted on the benefits they see for the region.

“We now await Environment Courts decision on the application.”

Media Release by the Guardians of the Bays

An announcement that hearings for Wellington Airport’s runway extension could be potentially delayed till late 2019 should be a final nail in the coffin for the Airport’s proposal, according to community and ratepayer groups concerned about the mounting costs to Wellingtonians.

Guardians of the Bays, representing almost 600 community and ratepayer organisations and concerned individuals, said it was time for the Airport to realise the project was unviable – from both, a cost and community perspective. The Environment Court resource consent process for the extension was put on hold in April and was due to resume this month. Guardians of the Bays Co-Chair Richard Randerson said: “Wellington Airport has tried desperately to stack up its claims that there will be an economic benefit from the proposed airport extension for Wellington without success. It has drawn down significant amounts of ratepayer funding for its Environment Court application.These delays will just be adding further costs to the ratepayer bill. There is already evidence that the proposal is likely to cost much more than the $300m originally suggested four years ago when this process started – up to $500m according to one expert.”

“In addition, much of the Airport’s evidence will now be completely out-of-date with the considerable environmental and economic changes that have occurred in the nearly six years since this whole process started. The Airport’s white elephant has cost ratepayers millions of dollars already and makes a mockery of the hundreds of people who submitted against the proposal. More than 700 submissions were made to the Environment Court on the application and the majority of these were against the proposal. At the same time that the Government is taking the lead and focusing on spending that improves the lives of Wellingtonians and all New Zealanders, Wellington Airport’s plans will also displace Wellington social housing tenants as it forges ahead with its plans despite every conceivable benefit having been shown to be wishful thinking”, he said.

“Wellington Airport has been trying to acquire properties on Calabar Rd, along the eastern side, including nine social housing units owned by Wellington City Council, which are home to 30 residents. It has also been buying up properties at Moa Point, where residents will be most severely affected by the proposed extension. Co-Chair Dr Sea Rotmann said it was time for the Mayor and Councillors of Wellington City to cut their losses on the proposed airport extension and move on. “It could be late 2019 before the Environment Court process is resumed under this scenario. That is six years since this all began – and just too long for the residents, whanau and communities potentially affected by this project.”

“The Airport is trying to do something that just doesn’t add up. These delays come on top of the announcement earlier this year that Singapore Airlines had canned its much-touted ‘Capital Express’ route to Canberra. As much as we might wish for it, there just isn’t enough demand for long-haul international flights out of Wellington and the social and environmental costs are just too high. “Wellington ratepayers have already spent $9 million dollars of ratepayer money to promote the route, yet publicly available loading data clearly shows that the Capital Express achieved less than a 50 percent passenger loading. In a meeting with Wellington Mayor Justin Lester shortly after he was elected last year, he was clear that the Council’s support of the Wellington Airport extension was dependent on demand for the route.”

“Wellington ratepayers are being asked to shoulder a risk that Wellington International Airport and Infratil, who have a 66 percent share in the Airport, will not enter into because they know it’s not worth it. Infratil has indicated it is only willing to cover about 17 percent of the cost but is demanding Wellingtonians and taxpayers foot the rest of the bill. The additional ratepayer millions wasted on advertising this white elephant and collecting data for technical reports which will be long out-of-date, will never be recovered. It’s basically money that got dumped into Cook Strait.”

“The proposed airport extension is not about what is good for Wellington. It is about what is good for Wellington Airport. It’s high time to stop this farce and move on with better projects for our city, like social housing, traffic congestion, infrastructure and earthquake and climate change resilience,” she said.


Wellington Airport’s increasing demands for more space means it is looking at taking a big chunk of the Miramar Golf Club’s land. Miramar Golf Club could see half its land gone in as little as three years due to the expansion of  Wellington Airport. Wellington International Airport Ltd revealed provisional expansion plans at the golf club on Monday night, prompting some club members to call the extension a fait accompli. A need for more aeroplane parking space was the biggest driver, but new civil aviation rules requiring additional luggage screening techniques also contributed to demands for more space.

Wellington Airport chief commercial officer Matt Clarke and infrastructure general manager John Howarth present early ...


Wellington Airport chief commercial officer Matt Clarke and infrastructure general manager John Howarth present early plans for the airport expansion.

The airport has the power to buy land as it sees fit, under the Public Works Act, but this could be appealed in court. 

Miramar Golf Club shrinks in Wellington airport growth plans
Wellington Airport expansion plan would displace social housing

Airport chief commercial officer Matt Clarke said future designs had to be able to cope with the “busy hour” when highest air traffic occurred.

On the plan the purple area, which encroaches on golf course land, will be devoted to aircraft parking. The blue area is ...


On the plan the purple area, which encroaches on golf course land, will be devoted to aircraft parking. The blue area is the new multi-storey car park. The yellow area is the existing terminal, and the red area will be needed for aviation support. Club members asked why the airport couldn’t simply spread out arrivals and departures to ease the demand. Clarke responded that many flights were coming from overseas, and the airport couldn’t dictate arrival times. “If you want to stay competitive with other airports and other places and other cities you have to provide for the growth in travel when people want to travel.”

A separate slide shows the airport extension expected to come into effect on the Western Apron.


A separate slide shows the airport extension expected to come into effect on the Western Apron.

On the plan a large purple area, which encroached on golf course land, would be devoted to aircraft parking, as well as catering, cargo, aviation security, apron access and fuel facilities. A proposed new road, marked with a black dotted line, ran through the existing course. Clarke said the airport had investigated possible locations where the golf club could be moved to, but hadn’t found any suitable sites. If a good location was found, the company would consider helping with the relocation. Members of the club accused  the company of purposefully building itself into a corner, making expansion on to the course the only option.
New CT scanners for checked luggage will also likely prompt the expansion of the airport terminal to the south.


New CT scanners for checked luggage will also likely prompt the expansion of the airport terminal to the south.

“You create that congestion and then you tell us we have to stop playing golf to accommodate it,” one man said.

Airport infrastructure general manager John Howarth said when Wellington Airport’s 110-hectare site was compared with Auckland’s 1600ha footprint, it was clear the operation was running on “a postage stamp”. He said two major things had changed since the 2030 Master Plan was written in 2009.

Airport infrastructure general manager John Howarth points out the area in purple, which would likely be taken from the ...


Airport infrastructure general manager John Howarth points out the area in purple, which would likely be taken from the Miramar golf course.

The first was  that most airlines were opting for larger planes which legally required larger parking spaces. 

“If you go back to 2009 the average number of seats on planes going to Auckland and across the Tasman was about 130, and if you look at the aircraft that we have up there at the moment that’s more than 170,” he said. Competition had already increased, with ever smaller players such as Sounds Air jumping from three aircraft in 2009 to 10 now. New security requirements would also meant the extension of some airport buildings.

“The requirement for CT-scanners to meet the European Civil Aviation Standard is significantly greater in terms of area and size. We cannot fit this within our existing footprint … We’ve investigated the area needed, which is about 3000 square metres, and determined the only place we can supply that is to the south of the terminal, and we need to deliver that by 2022.” There may also be new requirements for the scanning of carry-on luggage. An airport extension would require changes to the District Plan.

Some members of the audience asked how the Wellington City Council, which owns 34 per cent of the airport, could be responsible for making changes to the District Plan. Clarke said if there were a conflict of interest an independent commissioner would be brought in to consider the council’s decision. Golf club member Kevin Banaghan said it was up to the club to consider all the options – including the price offered for the land – and decide on the best option for the future.

 – Stuff

A little over week ago, a white Subaru got washed off the Moa Point breakwater by a ‘rogue’ wave. Some reports said the car’s occupants were fishing “at the popular fishing spot”, whilst eye (and social media) witnesses said that 3 people were actually inside the car when the wave struck them. They had to smash their way out through the windows and were lucky to get out of the wild ocean alive.

Photo: Mark Boucher, Stuff

This is not the first time a car was swept off that breakwater, and people have died there in the past, according to locals. An airport spokeswoman wrongly claimed that the metal safety barrier had “recently been damaged by the storm or vandalised”. Now, that ‘barrier’ has long been broken, and the breakwater safety sorely neglected by the airport. As with the entire southern end of the runway, the breakwater is an eyesore full of dangerous rocks, akmons and crevices and open to the pounding southerly waves. We can often watch giant waves break over the entire runway end and the breakwater, with holes spurting water several metres high.

Photo: Fritz Schöne

Photo: Fritz Schöne

Photo: Radio NZ

Photo: Radio NZ – this was from 2015 and you can see that the barrier arm going to the actual breakwater was already damaged

We also often watch people fishing off the breakwater, including taking their vehicles up there. Most fishermen aren’t foolhardy enough to do so in southerly swells but rubberneckers have frequently be seen running away or getting drenched in waves breaking over the runway and breakwater. It is an extremely dangerous area.

Photo taken during massive swell in June 2015 – clearly, no barrier was there to stop public access

Photo: Stuff

However, when it comes to finding the authority responsible for ensuring public safety, the plot thickens considerably. In a series of tweets between Dr Sea Rotmann, our Co-Chair and a Moa Point local, the @lyallbaynz account, Eastern Ward Councillor Chris Calvi-Freeman and Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC), we tried to uncover who ultimately was in charge – both, of removing the drowned vehicle which was visibly polluting Lyall Bay with debris (and most likely also toxic fluids like oil, petrol and air conditioning fluids etc.), and for taking responsibility for granting unsafe access to the area.

Greater Wellington was the only Council who responded to our inquiries (except for City Councillor Calvi-Freeman) and finally sent commercial divers to the scene to recover the vehicle (4 days later).

Both the Harbourmaster and the Police, which seemed to give mistaken (?) statements that nobody was in the vehicle at the time it was washed off, did not seem to be interested in recovering the vehicle, as it was “the owner’s responsibility”. We have to question this blasé attitude to quite serious pollution of one of our most used city beaches – the car was clearly a write-off so why would the owners go to considerable trouble and expense to get it recovered if no one forced them to? Debris was floating on the surface and washed up on Moa Point beach, around the corner. Surely, the waves could also easily carry it onto the surf break or Lyall Bay beach where it could be a hazard to the public. Would the Regional Council have finally sent someone if the community and Councillor Calvi-Freeman hadn’t been making inquiries?

Secondly, and more concerning seeing that people have died by being swept off that breakwater in the past, is the very disingenuous attitude by the airport erroneously claiming that the barrier was only recently destroyed (see photos from 2015, above) and that it was none of their problem “as the land was owned by someone else”. Reading their “urban design assessment” which forms part of their (halted) Environment Court resource application – halted, by the way because the airport thought it could get away with extending the runway without proper safety areas, which the Supreme Court just agreed with the Pilots’ Association was not sufficient – it becomes clear that the land is indeed owned by the Wellington City Council (WCC). What also becomes clear, however, is that the airport has built the breakwater and sea wall and been “maintaining” it by dumping rocks and akmons off it – without seemingly having a clear permit or resource consent to do so.

The Surfbreak Protection Society has pointed out in the past that this practice by the airport has severely degraded the quality of the “Corner” surf break in Lyall Bay. Their detailed research uncovered that, even though WCC is holding resource consents for work on the sea wall, it was not them but the airport who had been conducting the dumping of rocks in 2015 – without the Council’s clear knowledge. The surf community is in talks with the Council and Airport to have a vertical sea wall reinstated along the length of Moa Point Rd alongside the airport as it was back in the 50’s – 70’s, when the Corner was at its optimum performance. After GRWC directed SPS to have meeting with WIAL last September, Greg Thomas from WIAL noted that the continual dumping of rocks “may not be as cost-effective” as constructing a permanent vertical wall.

In addition, as part of the ‘mitigation’ for destroying one of our most beloved South Coast tāonga, a 3m cycle way and “promenade” is promised to be built by the airport, at the breakwater.

It is quite clear from looking at these imagined drawings, that none of the so-called “experts” the airport has paid with ratepayer dollars have bothered really visiting the area – especially in a Southerly. If they had, they’d have drawn the pedestrians and dogs being washed into the broiling sea and drenched by towering waves! With the benches and access to sea level from the rocks, there is absolutely no way this area can be cordoned off to the public in dangerous conditions. The Council has also recently announced that it was thinking of moving the Lyall Bay car park, near the surf break, as coastal inundation just made it too vulnerable to being repeatedly washed out.

Photo: Uli Beck from Spruce Goose

Photo: Radio NZ

Why does the Council let the airport play hazard with public safety and amenity to this extent, even paying them to do so (for example, by providing millions for the – now useless(?) – expert reports)? Why does it then not hold the airport responsible for any issues related to public health and safety and the clear reduction in amenity values, like the surf break? Who is actually in charge here and does someone else have to die before the authorities will finally do something about this mess?

Originally posted on Scoop

Press Release – Public Service Association

Wellington Airport managers must front up to serious questions over its response to Monday mornings earthquake – and how it communicated with other agencies, the PSA says.Wellington Airport workers kept “in the dark” during quake aftermath
Wellington Airport managers must front up to serious questions over its response to Monday morning’s earthquake – and how it communicated with other agencies, the PSA says.

PSA National Secretary Glenn Barclay says around a dozen staff from the Ministry of Primary Industries plus additional Customs and other workers were at the airport when the quake hit.

“We have spoken to our members at Wellington airport and they are gravely concerned at what happened on Monday,” Mr Barclay says.

“Our members have told us they are not well briefed on emergency procedures or evacuation plans.

“This is a serious concern, especially considering Wellington Airport sits just 2 kilometres from a fault line.”

Virgin’s flight VA108 from Brisbane landed 20 minutes after the first quake and MPI and Customs staff processed passengers and cargo with little information about their own safety.

Mr Barclay says MPI staff stayed on duty after the tsunami warning was issued, and another shift was required to be back on duty to process flights arriving shortly after 6am, while it was still in place.

“Our members felt like they were expected to just get on with their jobs, but were totally in the dark about the risks they were facing – and the emergency procedures.

“This is simply not good enough.

“There may have been a good rationale for allowing the plane to land and requiring staff to stay – but this was not transmitted to front-line staff.

“Our members deserve to feel safe at work – but more importantly, the thousands of passengers who travel through Wellington Airport every day need to know they are safe too.

“We urgently call for a review of how emergency information is transmitted to workers at Wellington Airport and to the public.”


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By Pattrick Smellie

Aug. 15 (BusinessDesk) – Wellington’s airport runway extension initiative fails on the grounds that lower North Island and South Island travellers are already flying to long-haul destinations through Auckland or Christchurch and the region is not a magnet for tourists, who are more likely to favour Auckland and Queenstown as an arrival point.

That’s the conclusion of a study commissioned by the lobby group for international airlines, including Air New Zealand, lodged in opposition to Wellington International Airport’s application for a resource consent to lengthen the capital city’s runway by 350 metres.

The new study, by Australian-based Ailevon Pacific Aviation Consultants for the Board of Airline Representatives in New Zealand, said the likelihood of airlines establishing new long-haul services to the capital is “extremely remote, implausible at best”.

It contests the findings of a study by rival aviation industry consultants, InterVistas, which APAC said has over-estimated demand for long-haul services to and from Wellington, which it said has not benefitted from the boom in international tourism that has boosted arrivals, particularly to Auckland and Queenstown, in recent years.

“Visitor demand growth from long-haul markets to Wellington has lagged not only the New Zealand average but also other airports in New Zealand without long haul international services,” said the APAC report.

Using Australian Bureau of Statistics and International Air Travel Association (IATA) data, APAC concluded that Wellington’s strongest growth has been in short-haul traffic between the capital and Australian cities and the Pacific Islands, where most of the growth in new routes to Welllington has been in recent years.

“Presently, Wellington has no markets with sufficient origin-destination demand beyond New Zealand, Australia or the Pacific Islands that could support non-stop services with adequate frequency.”

The report makes almost no mention of improved export freight-forwarding opportunities that might arise from a longer runway – the main benefit cited by Wellington Chamber of Commerce head John Milford, who called for support from local businesses ahead of last Friday’s deadline for submissions to the Wellington Regional Council on WIAL’s application for a resource consent to undertake the $350 million project.

WIAL is seeking to make Wellington an alternative long-haul destination to Auckland, the country’s dominant airline gateway, the existing second gateway Christchurch, and Queenstown, which is increasingly connected by direct flights from Australia.

WIAL is owned 66 percent by Infratil, the NZX-listed infrastructure company, and 33 percent by Wellington City Council. It is seeking the majority of the runway extension cost from central government and Wellington ratepayers, arguing the benefits would accrue more to the country and the region rather than the airport owner, which cannot justify the expansion on purely commercial grounds.

APAC disclosed in its submission that it has undertaken work for key opponents of the Wellington plan, Air New Zealand, Auckland International Airport, and Queenstown airport, in which AIA has a shareholding, but says its analysis is independent.

“The simple fact is that Wellington International Airport’s catchment region is too small and too slow-growing to warrant non-stop long-haul services,” said APAC, which makes serious accusations about the quality of the InterVistas analysis undertaken for WIAL.

“InterVistas .. have either failed to accurately reflect the nature of demand at Wellington International Airport when benchmarked against neutral and industry-accepted data sources, including data sources InterVistas purports to rely on, or appear to have reinterpreted the data to support a case for long-haul demand,” the APAC report said.

In a submission on the runway extension application, the New Zealand Air Line Pilots Association said there was increased risk of a serious accident or incident, especially from larger planes using Wellington Airport, unless an adequate Runway End Safety Area (RESA) of 240 metres or a recognised equivalent solution is used.

NZALPA president Tim Robinson said despite his members having the most to gain from the runway extension, they were opposed to it unless it included the RESA. He suggested an alternative though known as Engineered Material Arresting System in use globally, which is a crushable material installed on an existing RESA to declerate an aircraft in an emergency.

Earlier this month, the association filed an appeal against the High Court’s decision to turn down a review of the runaway’s 90-metre safety area.


This report clearly shows why Christchurch, not Wellington, is the obvious second long-haul airport in New Zealand. In summary:

  • ChCh airport already has a well-established runway that can fly in large, long-haul planes safely
  • ChCh airport has no curfew and does not operate in the middle of the city
  • ChCh has greater tourism and manufacturing and industry importance than Wgtn
  • ChCh airport is higher ranked on most metrics than Wgtn: on ASKs (average seat km), seats and cargo payload
  • It also has a higher degree of choice for passengers
  • Emirates, Singapore, China Southern and Fiji airlines already fly long-haul from ChCh
  • It has much greater cargo capacity than Wgtn
  • It already has 3 runways and a completed major terminal upgrade
  • It is entirely in the public hand (75% City Council, 25% NZ Govt) and will remain so
  • Queenstown, not Wellington is its biggest competitor (but not for long-haul flights). Queenstown is the second busiest airport in the country already.


New Zealand is a remote country and Christchurch, on the South Island, a more remote city than either Auckland or Wellington. Being located at the far end of the world must impact on connectivity.

The government has transformed New Zealand from an agrarian economy into a more industrialised, free market one that can compete globally and Christchurch plays its part with specialised industrial and commercial activities. For these reasons, and others – notably tourism – the airport there has established itself as, at least jointly, the country’s second most important one. Christchurch airport has also played an important part in the city’s recovery from recent serious earthquake events.

This report examines Christchurch International Airport by way of several sets of metrics, looks at the airports that can be considered rivals to it, and at its construction activities and ownership.

An overview of New Zealand’s history and economy

The British colony of New Zealand became an independent dominion in 1907. It assumed a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for the 2015-16 term, an indicator of the progress by this small country of only 4.7 million people onto the global stage, a country the same size by population as Ireland or Costa Rica.

The islands of New Zealand are isolated from Australia across the 2000km (1200 mile) Tasman Sea, with Chile 9000 km to the east, Antarctica  to the south and – apart from a few South Pacific islands – the nearest northern landfall being far western Russia in the Bering Sea. New Zealand is about as remote and secluded as it gets for an economy to operate successfully. That remoteness ensured that it was one of the last places to be settled by humans.

Map locating Christchurch in relation to Wellington and Auckland, and New Zealand in relation to major Australian cities

The capital and administrative centre, Wellington, and the commercial one, Auckland, are both situated on the North Island, so the prospects for developing international air transport (especially direct flights) on the South Island at Christchurch must be adversely affected.

Over the past 30 years the government has transformed New Zealand from an agrarian economy, dependent on concessionary British market access, into a more industrialised, free market economy that can compete globally. This dynamic growth has boosted real incomes, and has broadened and deepened the technological capabilities of the industrial sector.

Per capita income rose for 10 consecutive years until 2007 but fell in 2008-09. Debt-driven consumer spending drove robust growth in the first half of the decade, fuelling a large balance of payments deficit that posed a challenge for policymakers. Inflationary pressures caused the central bank to raise its key rate steadily from Jan-2004 until it was among the highest in the OECD in 2007-08.

The economy fell into recession before the start of the global financial crisis and contracted for five consecutive quarters in 2008-09. In line with global peers the central bank cut interest rates aggressively and the government developed fiscal stimulus measures. The economy pulled out of recession in 2009, and achieved 2%-3% growth between 2011 and 2015. Nevertheless, key trade sectors remain vulnerable to weak external demand and lower commodity prices. In the aftermath of the Canterbury earthquakes (see below) the government has continued programmes to expand export markets, develop capital markets, and invest in innovation.

GDP growth fell slightly in 2015 and is projected to continue at 2.4-2.5% through the next five years. The following text and charts deal with the New Zealand economy in general.

GDP Growth of New Zealand (percentage change)

Inflation dipped to 0.3% in 2015 but is expected to rise to 1.5% in 2016.

Inflation and average consumer prices of New Zealand (percentage change)

The unemployment rate is expected to remain static during the next few years.

Unemployment rate of New Zealand (percentage of total labour force)

A  logical comparison is New Zealand with Australia. In 2015 Australia’s GDP growth rate was slightly higher than New Zealand’s at 2.37%. Inflation in Australia was much higher at 1.8%, while the unemployment rate was 0.5 percentage points higher than New Zealand’s.

Tourism – Asia Pacific overtakes traditional UK inward visitor market

The inward visitor market to New Zealand is dominated by Australia as might be expected. However, Asian markets have been growing strongly led by China, which now accounts for over 11% of visitors. China and the US have overtaken the traditional UK visitor market while the figure for Japan has risen to 2.8%, though that is still some way behind the UK’s percentage share. Of the top 12 visitor source countries eight are in Asia Pacific.

Visitor arrivals by market, 2015

After stagnating between 2010 and 2012 visitor numbers have been growing steadily.

New Zealand annual visitor arrivals, 2010-2015

Modern-day New Zealand is a developed country with a market economy that is dominated manufacturing and tourism, along with exports of dairy products, meat and wine. The nation is rated as a World Bank high income economy.

Auckland, on the North Island, is the largest and most populous urban area with a population of 1,454,300 – 32% of the national total. It is the largest Oceanian city outside Australia and is rated as a Beta World City. It is the economic capital of the country.

The capital city, administrative centre and second most populous urban area is Wellington (population 400,000), also on the North Island but at the south western tip, close to the Cook Strait between North and South Islands.

Christchurch – agriculture, light engineering and CIT are the main industries

Christchurch is the largest city on the South Island and is the seat of the Canterbury Region. The population is 381,800, making it New Zealand’s third most populous urban area.

The agricultural industry has always been at the economic centre of Christchurch, farming being part of the original ‘package’ by which New Zealand was sold to immigrants. The high quality of local wine has increased the appeal of Canterbury and Christchurch to tourists.

Christchurch is also the second largest manufacturing centre in New Zealand

However, Christchurch is also the second largest manufacturing centre in New Zealand after Auckland, the sector being also the second largest contributor to the local economy. While heavy engineering including steel work once predominated, manufacturing is now mainly of light products and the key market is Australia. Before clothing manufacture largely moved to Asia Christchurch was the centre of the New Zealand clothing industry. The firms that remain mostly design and market their goods, with manufacture taking place in Asia.

In the last few decades technology-based industries have sprung up in Christchurch, including mobile phones and software. Locally and nationally the IT sector is known not for its size (being the third largest in New Zealand), but for producing innovative, entrepreneurial solutions, products and concepts.

Tourism is also a significant part of the local economy. Its hotels, a casino, the close proximity of the ski fields and other attractions of the Southern Alps and other factors make Christchurch a stopover point or destination for many tourists. The city is particularly popular with Japanese tourists. In this respect, having an airport that meets international standards is a clear requisite.

The city was rocked by two major earthquakes – in Sep-2010 and Feb-2011. The second caused most of the damage and casualties and an insurance bill of up to NZD30 billion. Smaller earthquakes have frequently affected the city and region since then, and 4500 of them were recorded in the Canterbury region in a four year period between 2010 and 2014.

However, the city has experienced rapid growth following the earthquakes. The central city rebuild has been gaining in momentum and there has been big growth in the residential sector, with approximately 50,000 new houses expected to be constructed in the Greater Christchurch area by 2028. The airport was widely praised for the way its emergency plan dealt with the effects of the two largest earthquakes.

These airport profiles often contrast and compare the target airport with a set of peer airports, nationally or internationally or both.

In this instance the selected airports are Auckland and Wellington within New Zealand. Additionally: Brisbane in Australia (the centre of a tourism industry, as is Christchurch), and Perth in Australia because it is similarly remotely situated away from the economic and aviation hubs of the eastern part of Australia.

The two tables below compare these airports.

Some are O&D airports handling tourism or business traffic or both. Others are hubs, though this is at a minor level on a global scale.

Rankings by assorted metrics (1):  

Airport/metric world ranking Type ASKs Seats Frequencies Cargo payload Pax 2015 (unless stated) (million) City population (million)
Christchurch O&D 279 266 227 295 6.1 0.4
Auckland O&D/hub 60 114 115 109 16.3 1.5
Wellington O&D/hub 372 270 192 339 5.7 0.5
Brisbane O&D 66 85 85 94 22.2 3.4
Perth O&D/hub 77 147 180 118 13.8 2.2

Within New Zealand it can be seen that Christchurch has a greater aeronautical impact than does Wellington, though both trail Auckland. That Christchurch is almost 100 places higher in the ASK ranking than Wellington is testimony to its ability to attract long haul flights. Notably, the Australian market is significantly larger all round, whether expressed in terms of population or aviation metrics.

The table below summarises Christchurch International Airport’s (CIA’s) route network and the table below that compares CIA with its peer group in network terms.

Christchurch International Airport, network summary (at 26-Apr-2016)

Total Airlines 9
    Domestic only 1
    International 8
Total nonstop passenger destinations 23
    Domestic 15
    Africa 0
    Asia Pacific 8
    Europe 0
    Latin America 0
    Middle East 0
    North America 0
Total nonstop freight destinations 2
    Domestic 1
    Africa 0
    Asia Pacific 1
    Europe 0
    Latin America 0
    Middle East 0
    North America 0

Rankings of selected peer airports with Christchurch airport, by assorted metrics (2): 

Airport Total airlines Pax traffic 2015 (unless stated) (million) Airline to pax ratio International airlines Nonstop passenger destinations Nonstop freight destinations
Christchurch 9 6.1 0.67 8 23 2
Auckland 24 16.3 0.68 23 52 6
Wellington 7 5.7 0.81 5 24 0
Brisbane 26 22.2 0.85 21 61 6
Perth 23 13.8 0.6 21 38 1

A low reading in the airline to pax ratio column can indicate a higher degree of choice for passengers at any individual airport, and Christchurch has one of the lowest of the group.

The table shows that Christchurch has three more international airlines operating than Wellington, although the number of international destinations is similar.

Again, the clear leader in all categories in New Zealand is Auckland Airport, although that airport is smaller in its size and scope than Brisbane.

Seat capacity growth overtaken by traffic growth in 2015

Seat capacity has been growing at a rate of a little over 5% per annum for the last two years, after a previous year of static growth.

CIA, seats capacity year-on-year, system-wide

Passenger traffic figures rose less quickly than capacity in 2014, but at a slightly higher rate than capacity in 2015 (+5.4%).

Christchurch International Airport, annual passenger numbers

22% of seat capacity at CIA is domestic. Christchurch serves a wide variety of domestic airports, approximately 15 in all and including the Chatham Islands to the east.

Christchurch International Airport, international vs. domestic capacity seats share (25-Apr-2016 to 1-May-2016)

Air New Zealand has two thirds of total seat capacity

Christchurch is one of three Air New Zealand hubs and the airline dominates capacity at CIA, with a  67.2% share. The range in capacity is vast, with Air New Zealand having 103,000 seats in this chart period and Air Chathams – just 100.

Jetstar Airways, the Qantas Group LCC subsidiary, is the second largest airline and operates domestic services.

Otherwise no airline has over 4.1% of capacity, as is the case with Virgin Australia, Australia’s second largest airline, whose Virgin Australia NZ division (previously Pacific Blue) was integrated back into Virgin Australia in Aug-2014.

Intercontinental airlines such as Emirates, Singapore Airlines, China Southern and Fiji Airways have an important role to play: keeping Christchurch/Canterbury connected to the wider world and sponsoring greater trade. However, their combined contribution in capacity terms comes to only 7% of the total.

CIA capacity seats, per week, system, all airlines, 25-Apr-2016 to 01-May-2016

In terms of regional seat capacity the Southwest Pacific region has easily the greatest number of seats, followed by Southeast Asia and Northeast Asia respectively. (The Middle East is not shown because Emirates flies via Sydney and Bangkok, so seats are registered to/from Southeast Asia). The lack of direct services to and from Europe is evident and that region is catered for indirectly by connections via Auckland, Australia, Singapore and the Middle East.

In the current climate of airline cooperation either via formal alliances, code shares or by ad hoc ‘beyond code share’ arrangements it would be economically difficult to justify a direct nonstop service, even using a B787 or A350, and even if the aircraft had the range. Similarly with flights to North America, which can be taken in a range of other indirect ways.

Individually, Australia has the greatest capacity (27682 seats) and Fiji the least (668).

CAI capacity seats by region, 25-Apr-2016 to 01-May-2016

This scenario is clarified further in the seat capacity ‘heat map’ below.

CAI international capacity seats by region ‘heat map’, 25-Apr-2016 to 01-May-2016

CIA’s current route network appears below. Again it emphasises the locality of the majority of air services and the small number of intercontinental connections, though these are important.

Nonstop connectivity – total number of services the same as at Wellington

The chart below again shows clearly how all the direct, nonstop services at CIA are to and from the Asia Pacific region. The total number of services is the same as at Wellington. There are no direct services to Europe from any of the peer group airports, though there are five to North America from Auckland.

Nonstop connectivity values of Christchurch, Auckland, Wellington, Brisbane and Perth departing airports for 25-Apr-2016 to 01-May-2016

Mainly a ‘full service’ airport

Four fifths of seats at CIA are on full service airlines, with almost all the remainder on LCCs.

CIA capacity seat share by airline type (system), 25-Apr-2016 to 01-May-2016

The table below compares that traffic split with the airport’s peer-competitors.

Comparison of selected airports by airline type – seat availability, 25-Apr-2016 to 01-May-2016  

Airport % of seats on FSCs % of seats on LCCs % of seats on other modes (e.g. regional, charter airlines) Clarification of previous column
Christchurch 80.1 19.8 0.1 Regional/commuter
Auckland 84.6 18.3 0.1 Regional/commuter
Wellington 79.0 18.9 2.1 Regional/commuter
Brisbane 86.1 13.6 0.3 Regional/commuter and charter
Perth 81.1 17.6 1.3 Regional/commuter and charter

This picture formed by this table is the most consistent of any produced in the series of airport profiles that has been published in the last six months (most of which were in Europe and the US). It is indicative of the way that low cost aviation has grown in both New Zealand and Australia but without supplanting full service airlines to a great extent. The percentage range for low cost is just 6.2 percentage points.

The table says little that differentiates Christchurch from the capital city airport or the chief commercial city airport in New Zealand.

Star is the dominant alliance

The main airline alliance at CIA is Star Alliance, through representation by Air New Zealand and, to a lesser degree, by Singapore Airlines. The alliance holds almost 70% of seat capacity, with hardly any representation from oneworld or SkyTeam. 28% of capacity is on unaligned airlines.

CIA capacity seats share by alliance (system), 25-Apr-2016 to 01-May-2016

The table below shows how these data compare with the peer group.

Comparison of CIA with selected peer group airports by alliance penetration – seat availability, 25-Apr-2016 to 01-May-2016

Airport % of seats on unaligned airlines % of seats on aligned airlines
Christchurch 27.8 72.2
Auckland 27.3 72.7
Wellington 24.7 75.3
Brisbane 54.1 45.9
Perth 54.9 45.1

Once again there is an evident and striking commonality between the three New Zealand airports, though this is doubtless brought about by the power of Air New Zealand in its home country. It is noticeable that the aligned airlines’ percentage figure is much lower at the two Australian peer group airports.

Seating types – a surprising lack of business class seats

Perhaps surprisingly, given Christchurch’s status as the South Islands’ chief economic driver, there are no first class seats into or out of Christchurch International Airport and the share of business class seating there is just 1.1%, compared with 4.4% at Auckland. (The worldwide average is 4.1%). Having said that, the business class percentage at Wellington is only 0.5%.

First class is almost completely absent from all of the peer group airports, amounting to just 0.2% at Auckland. Premium economy features at Auckland (1.9%, mainly on long haul services) but not at Christchurch or Wellington.

CIA schedule by class of seat – one-way weekly departing (airport comparison by seat type), (25-Apr-2016 to 01-May-2016)

Cargo – a greater balance between international and domestic capacity

As with passenger capacity cargo capacity has also increased steadily during the last three years, including an increase of 27.3% between 2013 and 2014. However, international cargo capacity is much greater than it is in the passenger arena, with domestic and international capacity balanced at 51.6%:48.4% respectively.

CIA total international capacity (cargo payload kg) by country, 25-Apr-2016 to 01-May-2016

While designated air freighters do visit CIA, according to OAG 100% of freight capacity is in passenger aircraft underbelly.

Again, Southwest Pacific is the major market as measured by capacity, but in this instance the percentage ratio has fallen in favour of Southeast Asia and North Asia.

CIA total international capacity (Cargo payload kg) by region 25-Apr-2016 to 01-May-2016

The largest single country markets by volume capacity are Australia (68.6%), Singapore, China, and Fiji. Sydney and Singapore are the top two routes.

Operational characteristics

CIA is unusual within the context of the CAPA airport profiles, being curfew-free and operating 24 hours a day

CIA is unusual within the context of the CAPA airport profiles, being curfew-free and operating 24 hours a day. It is situated in a suburb, Harewood, but 12 km (7.5 miles) from downtown.

This flexibility is partially exploited, in the sense that it permits early arrival of ‘red eye’ international and intercontinental services or departure of services requiring an early start. For example it is evident from the chart below for a typical day (Thursday 28-Apr-2016) that the second peakiest of the four peak hours is 0600-0700, when all activity is geared towards departures.

While the balance between arriving and departing passengers (the actual measure here is seat capacity) is fairly equal, there are occasions when it gets out of kilter. On the other hand, there is not such a degree of peakiness that further long haul services would find it difficult to operate. (Christchurch is the only other airport apart from Auckland that is capable of handling Boeing 777 and Boeing 747 aircraft in regular service).

CIA seats per hour total system, all airlines, all terminals, all origins/destinations, typical day: Thursday 28-Apr-2016

Despite the presence of long haul services, seat availability is distributed mainly in favour of flights of up to two hours’ duration. The total cumulative percentage of seat availability on flights in excess of four hours is only 3.8%.

CIA seats by length of flight (system), 25-Apr-2016 to 01-May-2016

In no uncertain terms the final chart in this section shows the intense focus on flights – and frequencies – within a short timeframe of up to 3.5 hours.

CIA frequencies (system), 25-Apr-2016 to 01-May-2016

Terminals and construction

Much of the infrastructure at CIA is in place.

The airport has two runways perpendicular to each other: a 3288 m primary runway (02/20) orientated with the north-easterly and south-westerly prevailing winds, and a 1741 m secondary runway (11/29) orientated for use during ‘nor’westers.’ The airport also has a third grass runway parallel to the primary runway, for use by general aviation.

Owing to increasing passenger numbers the airport has completed construction of a major terminal upgrade. The new construction’s primary wing opened in 2011 and the upgrade was completed in 2013 replacing the old domestic terminal and international check-in and the baggage handling infrastructure. The cost was NZD237 million (USD200 million). At the same time the airport changed its branding from Christchurch International Airport to Christchurch Airport, though it is still known internationally by its former name and the low-key rebranding may not have been as successful as hoped for.

According to the CAPA Airport Construction Database there is no significant construction activity at present. There is some maintenance work taking place on the north-south runway that is scheduled to complete soon. Otherwise, most of the activity has been in the development of the NZD25 million (USD21 million) Spitfire Square retail development of 17 stores.

The airport company will build a new Novotel hotel with 200 rooms on campus by the main terminal, to open at the end of 2017.

CIA has a 10 year strategic plan which is intended to enable it to grow its position, functioning on ‘innovation.’ This suggests that further construction activities are not required in the short- to mid-term, despite significant traffic increases recently.

Both locally and nationally there has been criticism of Wellington Airport’s proposal to extend its runway at a cost of NZD300 million (USD240 million). This criticism has been on the basis that “the probability of them [airlines] commercially wanting to fly a lot more flights out of Wellington is limited because they can already fly people to Auckland and Christchurch at reduced costs”, according to the Prime Minister, John Key.

Ownership – staying in the public sector

Christchurch International Airport Limited was established in 1988 as a company owned 75% by the Christchurch City Council and 25% by the New Zealand Government. Thus far it has avoided being lured into any form of privatisation, unlike Auckland Airport (Auckland City Council, Manukau City Council and publicly listed shares) and Wellington Airport (Wellington City Council/Infratil).

There have been several proposals that the airport should be sold in order to help out a cash-strapped council, but there is considerable resistance to those proposals.

Recently released financials for 2H2015 show tourism driving half-yearly profit up by 63.6% to NZD16.2 million, on a revenue increase of 12.2%.

Queenstown the beneficiary of Christchurch’s exposure to earthquakes

As mentioned previously, Christchurch remains heavily impacted from the earthquakes and attracting tourists back there is a challenge. Prospective intercontinental airlines may still be hesitant to go into Christchurch for the moment.

Queenstown Airport is taking advantage of this scenario and has grown significantly as an up-and-coming rival to be the gateway to the South Island. It is New Zealand’s fourth busiest airport.

Queenstown Airport serves the city of Queenstown, about 400 km southwest of Christchurch. The surrounding region is a popular adventure tourism destination, with some of New Zealand’s best ski fields, facilities for mountain biking and hiking locations. The airport commonly sees an influx in international traffic during the winter months, but is also experiencing growth in the summer as LCCs expand to/from the airport. New Zealand’s second-busiest airport by aircraft movements, Queenstown is served by Air New Zealand, Qantas, Jetstar, and Virgin Australia.

Traffic has been growing steadily in recent years, by 8.3% between 2013 and 2014 and by 14.3% between 2014 and 2015, compared with +3.5%/+5.4% at Christchurch. While traffic statistics are at the same level as 2008/9 international passengers have doubled in number.

Queenstown Airport annual – Passenger numbers

In Jun-2015, the airport opened a new international terminal and turned to its next initiative – to introduce evening flights by winter 2016. Evening flights will allow the airport to expand its capacity further without building additional terminal infrastructure in the short term and take advantage of its full consented operational hours between 06:00 and 22:00, moving from an approximate 8-hour operating window during the winter peak to a 16-hour operating window. Air New Zealand operated the first evening flight into Queenstown Airport on 30-Apr-2016 in preparation for scheduled services commencing on 23-May-2016.

There are two issues that mitigate against Queenstown establishing itself as the primary airport for the South Island

There are two issues that mitigate against Queenstown establishing itself as the primary airport for the South Island. Firstly, it cannot handle wide body/long-haul services, so it is restricted to visitors arriving from other points in New Zealand or from Australia. There are however transfer agreements in place such as the North Asia Alliance Agreement between Air New Zealand and Cathay Pacific, which has been extended through until Oct-2019.

Secondly, tourism accounts for much of its traffic. It is not a primary commercial centre as Christchurch is.

So Queenstown is and will remain a challenge for Christchurch in the future though not one that is insurmountable as long as the Canterbury region avoids more earthquake events.

Summary & Conclusions

  • New Zealand is a remote country and Christchurch is yet more ‘remote’, in the sense of distant, than Auckland or Wellington. Being located at the end of the world must impact on connectivity. In some directions there is nowhere to go.
  • The government has transformed New Zealand from an agrarian economy to a more industrialised, free market economy that can compete globally. However, the economy in and around Christchurch is still based on agriculture, although supplemented by light industry and CIT businesses that enable it to stand alone.
  • The tourism market remains dominated by inbound from Australia but is swinging slowly in favour of North Asian countries. Visitor numbers continue to grow steadily.
  • Christchurch remains in recovery mode after a series of large earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 and the airport has played a large part in supporting that recovery.
  • Overall, Christchurch has a greater aviation impact as measured by various metrics than does the capital city airport, Wellington. For example, the number of routes is the same and it hosts more international airlines operating there.
  • Seat capacity has been growing by an average of 5% in the last two years, with traffic growth slightly beating that figure in 2015.
  • Christchurch airport serves a very wide variety of domestic routes and Air New Zealand has the lion’s share of capacity at the airport.
  • Intercontinental airlines play an important role, but the sum of their seat capacity is only 7%.
  • There is a lack of direct air services to both Europe and North America but such services would be impractical in the current economic climate, and when many destinations can be accessed indirectly through mid-distance hubs.
  • In terms of the impact of low cost airlines there is nothing to differentiate Christchurch from Auckland or Wellington airports.
  • Because of Air New Zealand’s membership, Star Alliance is the dominant alliance.
  • The balance between domestic and international cargo capacity is a fine one.
  • There is no curfew at the airport and there are opportunities for other long haul services to operate if economically justifiable.
  • Most flights and frequencies are condensed into a time frame up to three hours.
  • For the time being most of the infrastructure is in place; construction activities are limited to retail development and runway maintenance. However, CIA has a 10 year strategic plan which is intended to enable it to grow its position, functioning on ‘innovation’.
  • The airport is in public ownership and looks set to stay that way
  • Queenstown Airport, at the centre of a flourishing tourist trade, presents a challenge to Christchurch Airport.