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


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. 

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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

Original article here.

OPINION:  Last week, the umpteenth repeat of the famous Fawlty Towers ”Germans” episode was playing on my TV. Despite having seen it countless times, I had to stop and watch a hilariously concussed, goose-stepping John Cleese say “don’t mention the war” in front of tearful Germans.

This reminded me of our present Wellington City Council, where the rule seems to be “don’t mention the airport runway extension”.

The issue was a major one last term. Never mind that extending the runway would greatly increase greenhouse emissions, our Green mayor got right behind it. And despite the airport extension arguably being corporate welfare, the Labour deputy mayor, and now our present mayor, strongly supported it, too.

Council chief executive Kevin Lavery was also a big fan, naming the runway extension in early 2016 – along with the Film Museum and Convention Centre, which also seems to be in a state of limbo – as an area in which he wanted to make “real progress”.

Lavery and mayor Justin Lester were also involved in brokering the “Capital Express” route deal, which saw Singapore Airlines fly from Singapore to Canberra to Wellington, and receive a nice council subsidy in the process.

Surely if a direct flight from Singapore was successful then that would show that a runway extension would bring even bigger planes and more tourists to enjoy Te Papa, the cable car and the Wellington Seve … oops.

With the regular exception of councillors Sarah Free, David Lee and Helene Ritchie, the council agreed to support extension plans and fund a feasibility study.

But during the mayoral campaign some leopards changed their spots. After initially supporting the extension, Nicola Young did more research and came out against it. Even runway-friendly councillor Jo Coughlan questioned the deal. There seemed little public appetite for the extension.

Yet since election day, we have heard very little about the extension from councillors. Has our mayor been going around in a Cleese-like manner saying, “Don’t mention the runway extension. I did once but I think I got away with it.” Or has interest simply waned?

None of our new councillors have publicly supported the extension. Of the old guard, only Mayor Lester and “Swampy” Marsh have expressed support, and not for a while.

Can you blame everyone for keeping quiet? According to the airport, international arrivals have dropped by 9000 in the last year. However, Wellington-Auckland trips have increased.

I’m sure the airport would argue that the numbers would reverse if we had a longer runway, in the same way Roger Douglas argues that any failures of Rogernomics were because he wasn’t allowed to go far enough.

As for the Singapore route, even though it was touted as a great deal by subsidy supporters, Singapore Airlines recently announced that it was cutting back on flights to Wellington from August to October. To be fair, the cutback is only about 5 per cent and the airline said it is simply dealing with lower demand in the off-season. Surely demand will pick up in January with the glorious summer weather and the Wellington Seve … oops.

When Mayor Lester recently addressed anti-runway lobby group Guardians of the Bay, co-chair Dr Sea Rotman reported that, “Mr Lester stated that if the [Singapore] ‘Capital Express’ route take-up indicated a lack of demand, the runway extension would be taken off the table.”

Though a 5 per cent drop is hardly the sort of customer drop-off that happened with events like the Seven … oops … I’m sure it’s still far from the type of demand that he and other runway supporters had hoped for.

Since being elected, Mr Lester has won many friends. His response to the Kaikoura earthquake was exemplary, his support for council housing has widespread support, and his progressive council has been praised by both business and citizen groups. The mayor’s style of efficient but consensual leadership has drawn praise from councillors on all sides.

If the “Capital Express” route continues to be sluggish, then Lester would have good reason to do what I suspect the majority of his councillors and Wellington’s ratepayers want him to do and throw the plans for this hazardous boondoggle off the table and deep into the dangerous 9-metre Lyall Bay swell.

 – Dave Armstrong, The Dominion Post

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has to revisit a decision over whether a longer runway safety area is needed if Wellington Airport extends its runway, a court has ruled.

In a decision released on Tuesday the Court of Appeal has agreed with the NZ Airlines Pilots’ Association (NZALPA) that the CAA must consider if longer runway safety areas (RESA) can feasibly be constructed, and also consider the use of arresting systems if appropriate.

The Court of Appeal found that in ruling that Wellington’s existing 90 metre safety area as compliant and appropriate for Wellington Airport’s proposed extension, the director of the CAA “made material errors in law”.

Wellington Airport chief executive Steve Sanderson said it was too early to say what impact the Court of Appeal ruling ...


Wellington Airport chief executive Steve Sanderson said it was too early to say what impact the Court of Appeal ruling would have on the proposed runway extension.

Under international aviation rules, regulators must ensure that airports operate with RESAs of at least 90m, and if “practicable” of at least 240m.

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In 2012 Wellington Airport requested clarification from the director of the CAA about the length of required RESA if the runway was extended.

Two years later the director of the CAA informed both the airport and NZALPA that it would not be practicable to require the airport to provide a RESA exceeding 90m, given the low risk of a crash and high cost of a larger safety area.

When the matter came before the the High Court, Justice Karen Clark ruled that what was “practicable” was a balancing exercise between safety considerations and the cost and difficulty involved.

However the Court of Appeal decision differed from Justice Clark, saying that while cost had some “limited relevance” in considering what was practicable, the real test was what was able to be constructed.

“[C]ost is not a predominant factor to be balanced against the requirement of promoting safety; given its removal from the amended primary legislation, “reasonable cost” is now a factor of subordinate importance,” the Court of Appeal decision said.

Steve Sanderson, chief executive of Wellington Airport said the company was disappointed with the decision.

“We will discuss next steps with the Civil Aviation Authority which is the principal defendant. It is too early to say what impact this decision will have on the proposed runway extension.”

The ruling appears to only apply to an extended runway, rather than prompt a review of Wellington Airport’s existing safety zone arrangements.

NZALPA “expressed their delight” at the decision.

“[A]s commercial pilots and air traffic controllers, our members have much to gain from an increase in flights landing and leaving from Wellington Airport, but not at any cost – especially if that cost is to the safety of passengers, local people, and airport staff,” NZALPA president Tim Robinson said in a statement.

Tuesday’s Court of Appeal decision criticised the decision-making process of the CAA, claiming its director failed to meet the required tests in coming to his decision on the Wellington Airport RESA.

“He was obliged to require a RESA from the threshold minimum of 90 metres to a distance of at least 240 metres providing that was practicable. There was nothing to suggest that the director undertook that critical inquiry or referred to evidence which might be relevant to it,” the Court of Appeal said.

“There was nothing in the material before the director to suggest that an extension to the RESA of an extra 150 metres (taking it to 240 metres) was not practicable.

“There was nothing to suggest a RESA of 240 metres was not feasible or able to be accomplished according to known means and resources; and there was nothing to suggest that a RESA of that distance was unachievable given the engineering technology available and the potential construction options for dealing with this site.”

The CAA said it was not able to immediately comment on the decision.

See article here.


Wellington Airport: Is it fair for public money to fund corporate profit and assets?

 OPINION: Wellington Airport’s CEO, Steve Sanderson, wrote glowingly (Dominion Post, June 25) of the benefits from extending Wellington’s runway 355 metres into Cook Strait.

The homework has been done, the benefits are clear, the money will flow, the resource consent application has been lodged and all that remains is for Wellingtonians to make supportive submissions to the Environment Court, he writes.

Who could disagree that tourism, student numbers and business ventures would benefit from better connectivity? But would a runway extension achieve such benefits? And might there not be better ways to invest public money for that purpose?

The costings for the whole project are murky. For some years now the cost of the extension has been stated to be $300 million. It matters not whether the extension goes 300m into Evans Bay, as originally proposed, or 355m into Cook Strait, as now proposed.

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Inflationary adjustment is not considered, nor any allowance for cost over-runs inevitable in a project of this size. A cost that never changes whatever the plan has zero credibility. The true cost will almost certainly be much more, maybe as much as $500m.

And who will pay? Sanderson says the economic modelling has been “compelling from our perspective”, and that the airport will be “funding its fair share of the cost”. An earlier statement from the airport company said  it would stump up $50m, about 17 per cent of the $300m estimate.

Considering that the airport owns two-thirds of the asset, and that owner Infratil is a huge global company with no shortage of investment funds, few would regard 17 per cent as a fair contribution. A proportional figure would be 67 per cent, or $200m, but the airport does not regard the venture as sufficiently profitable to warrant investing more than $50m.

Instead, it seeks $250m from the public purse in what is a stunning example of corporate welfare. The benefit accrues to the largely privately-owned airport by significantly enhancing its value, thus allowing it to hike airline, parking and other charges and reap an increased annual profit – largely at the expense of Wellington’s travelling public and business interests.

Infratil also benefits from owning a more valuable sale proposition.

Is it fair for public money to fund corporate profit and assets?

The ‘build it and they will come’ argument lacks credibility. Air NZ and BARNZ (Board of Airline Representatives New Zealand) are notably opposed to the project as being completely unviable.

BARNZ has a membership of 26 airlines flying in and out of NZ, and the judgment of such a broad group of primary airport users is weighty. The Government has also indicated the project is not a priority in terms of strategic significance.

A proper business case is essential to establish the actual costs and test the claimed benefits based on inflated passenger and revenue projections. It has cost Wellington ratepayers $3m so far to get the project to the resource consent stage. This is potentially wasted money if a robust business case finds it unviable.

What homeowner would spend big money to get resource consent for a home extension without knowing if the money was there to build it? The airport has put the cart before the horse.

Environmental issues are also a key concern. Lyall Bay is one of the cleanest pieces of ocean in the region. It is the habitat of the little blue penguin, giant kelp forests and other important marine life. The South Coast is a special environment in Wellington and has a marine reserve and its own management plan.

Dumping several million tonnes of rubble into the ocean will cause major environmental issues and ruin many recreational uses, including surfing and fishing.

Climate change concerns are another reason for improving existing connectivity rather than maximising flights.

There are better ways for the council to spend our money. Wellington has many attractions: international student numbers are up, visitor numbers are increasing and creative business ventures abound. Spending $300m to enhance business infrastructure, on earthquake strengthening, student resources and visitor experience would be of great benefit.

We are also a city that cares for people at the margins, as the council’s commitment to a living wage demonstrates. Money is urgently needed for social housing and support so that the homeless and marginalised may play a full role as citizens.

Steve Sanderson has encouraged Wellingtonians to make submissions to the Environment Court. Guardians of the Bays makes the same plea: make sure you ask questions of this project. This is your money, your city and we deserve a progressive vision that is built on something more than subsidising private companies.

Economic, environmental and social factors do not support the project. Other ways of improving the quality of life for Wellington’s residents and visitors alike are called for.

By Michael Forbes 

Wellington Airport says it has no “Plan B” in place if its proposed runway extension fails to get off the ground.

Airport representatives have told Wellington city councillors they do not expect the $300 million project to have any problems getting resource consent. But if it doesn’t fly, there are no contingency plans.

“You either build the runway extension or you don’t,

airport chief executive Steve Sanderson said on Tuesday.

The project’s main opposition group, Guardians of the Bays, has revealed it already has a dozen technical experts lined up to testify against the project in the Environment Court.

It is preparing a community fightback similar to the movement that killed off the Basin Reserve flyover in 2014, and its members predict the airport’s “arrogance” will come back to bite it.

Arial Runway
An aerial simulation of the proposed Wellington Airport runway extension. It shows a longer Moa Point Rd tunnel running underneath the extension, as well as a new marine habitat and natural beach that will be created along the edge of the reclaimed land at Moa Point.

The airport wants to extend its runway south by 354 metres to allow for direct long-haul flights to Asia, and possibly the United States.

It expects the project will be publicly notified by the Environment Court at the end of the week, with a resource consent hearing likely in February 2017.

Sanderson told councillors to expect plenty of “shooting down” of the project by various groups over the coming months, but not to let that bother them.

Moa Point View
The existing view from 35 Moa Point Rd.
The view from 35 Moa Point Rd with an extended runway.
The view from 35 Moa Point Rd with an extended runway.

“When you get to the Environment Court, the judge isn’t concerned with all the lobbying … the judge is concerned with facts. – DR Rotmann

But complicating matters is the unresolved issue of a High Court judicial review, brought by the New Zealand Air Line Pilots’ Association, which could double the cost of the extension if successful.

The association went to the High Court in November arguing the proposed extension should include 240m safety zones at both ends, rather than the existing 90m zones, which have been approved by the Civil Aviation Authority.

The court is yet to say whether it agrees with the pilots, which had some city councillors worried.

Councillor David Lee asked Sanderson what his “Plan B” was if the court ordered a review of the runway’s safety zones.

There were no such plans in place, Sanderson said. “It won’t be a show-stopper [for the extension], but we would like that process … to be completed before we enter the Environment Court.”

Iona Pannett​ pointed to the New Zealand Transport Agency’s failed attempt at getting consent for the flyover, and asked what “Plan B” was for Wellington’s economic growth if the runway extension suffered the same fate.

Sanderson said the airport’s consent application had been thoroughly researched and was the “complete package”. “We don’t expect it to fail.”

If it did, the entire country would have a problem on its hands, he said, because it could not afford to keep sending long-haul travellers up already congested roads to fly out of Auckland.

“It’s not a case of having a ‘Plan B’ for Wellington, it’s about a ‘Plan B’ for New Zealand.”

Sea Rotmann, of Guardians of the Bays, said the airport was being “spectacularly arrogant” if it thought its consent application would not fail.

The group had already found at least 12 technical experts who believed the extension did not stack up on economic and environmental grounds.

It had also been taking tips from from Save the Basin, the group that successfully led the fight against the flyover, Rotmann said.

“I think the airport’s bravado is going to be its downfall, to be quite honest … we’re going to fight this all the way to the end.