Originally published on Scoop

News from WPW
The Surfbreak Protection Society, New Zealand’s national surfers’ environmental organisation, is opposing Wellington Airport’s application for resource consent to extend its runway because of the impact it will have on surfing and the surfing environment on Wellington’s South Coast.

Michael Gunson of the SPS says community groups, local businesses and individuals need to get informed about the proposed extension and what it could mean to their quality of life.

“This project will unfortunately not return the benefits that the Airport and the City Council are promoting. Given the events of the last week, it is even more important that a project of this size, which is heavily reliant on public funding to get it across the line, is put under proper scrutiny. Something that has not happened yet.

“In addition to the worrying economic figures that came out of the Greater Wellington Regional Council’s report last month, saying that the estimated cost of the extension would be $428m but likely to rise to almost $500m, compared to the Airport’s estimation of $300m, SPS are focusing their concerns on the impacts to the surfing at Lyall Bay.

“Both the Greater Wellington Regional Council and Wellington City Council have quietly reported that there will be a complete loss of the Airport Rights surf break as a rare wave break, and The Corner surf break could be reduced by 0.8m in height.

“The Airport’s mitigation plan is to install an artificial swell focus reef but there is insufficient data to prove the safety and effectiveness of this technology.

“There is no proof that this reef can work, and there is no acknowledgement by the Airport that the artificial reef will impact adversely on a number of existing peaks in Lyall Bay, and offers unknown consequences for the remainder.

“The Airport’s consultants DHI are still unable to submit a final design that can avoid impacts on the Corner surf break, at the eastern end of the bay.

“The technical reports lodged with the Airport’s application do not acknowledge the nine or so surf breaks as outstanding natural features that contribute to Lyall Bay’s Natural Character (as recognised in the GWRC Proposed Natural Resources Plan and New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement).

“The Greater Wellington Regional Council has identified and mapped areas of high natural character, a requirement under policy 13.1(c) of the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement (by mapping or otherwise identifying at least areas of high natural character).

“The Airport have hired a consultant to prescribe that the open coastal waters of Lyall Bay have natural character values of moderate to low, and low to very low, in the areas where Lyall Bay’s surf breaks are present.

“It is the enjoyment, use, experience, and appreciation of Lyall Bay’s features by the local communities in and around the bay which sets the level of natural character and not the Airport’s consultant.”

SPS is urging other Wellington surfers who made submissions on the proposed extension to file their form under section 274 stating they would like to appear in the Environment Court and speak to their submissions.

“We know it can seem complicated but it is important that surfers have their say about the proposal. We would urge people to file the form and speak to their submissions in the Environment Court, it is hugely important that they file their s274 form before the Friday deadline.

“Of the 776 submissions made on the Airport’s resource consent application in August, 525 were opposed to the runway extension. But to speak to that submission, you also need to file a separate form. A form is available at guardiansofthebays.org.nz.”

“Despite the huge majority of local community and environmental groups who are against this proposal, under resourced individuals are having to self-fund the scrutiny that really should have happened at a Council level a long time ago. The Airport received $3m of rate-payers’ money to pull together their application.

“As a national organisation we find it disappointing that it falls to the community to do the research, put forward the resources and engage the expertise to address the serious environmental, social and economic impacts of the proposed runway extension, while the Wellington City Council, whose role it is act in the best interests of their city, are channelling funds to support the big businesses.”

The deadline for filing an s274 form is Friday.

“We strongly urge those who wish to join us in opposing the extension to file their s274 forms as soon as possible.”

Link here.

The Regional Council last week released a 165-page staff report analysing Wellington Airport’s application for permission to extend its runway.

The report, on the airport’s resource consent application, confirms that of the 776 submissions received, 527 were against the runway extension, 227 were in support of it (either in full or in part), and there were 18 neutral submissions and four conditional.

The airport is seeking permission for reclamation work to be carried out seven days a week, 24 hours a day. The proposed construction programme indicates that reclamation filling could take between 5 and 18 months depending on the source of material. The entire project will take up to four years.

The report refers to 310 trucks per day taking loads from quarries to the reclamation site:

Traffic emissions during construction will arise from trucks transporting fill material to the construction zones at the airport and construction vehicles at the airport construction site…The applicant considers that it is unlikely that there will be any measurable changes in vehicle related combustion emissions from 310 trucks per day…. [An expert] has advised that the covering of loads is “best practice and will satisfactorily mitigate potential fugitive dust over the haul route.”

Though no final decision seems to have yet been made on the use of barges, the airport is expecting that:

between 15 – 25 barges (i.e. 30 – 50 two way movements) will be required to operate each day (over an 18 hour period) over a 5 – 18 month period.

Barges transporting fill material to the construction site will follow the existing shipping route within Wellington Harbour to a point opposite Pencarrow Head. From there, barges will travel across the harbour entrance and around to the construction zone. It is intended that this route on the east side of the bay entrance will minimise disruption to recreational activities in the bay such as surfing, kiteboarding and stand-up paddle boarding.

Among concerns raised in the staff report is the effect of runway reclamation on the city’s wastewater outfall:

The Moa Point wastewater treatment plant coastal outfall passes through the area of the proposed reclamation. In the early phases of the work it is proposed to construct a protection structure over the outfall pipe to avoid damage due to the placement of the dyke and reclamation fill.

And here are the concerns:

The construction of a protection structure over the MOP has the potential for adverse effects on the environment should the works result in damage to the MOP, specifically the discharge of treated wastewater into the CMA at the works location. Further, the runway extension construction works could impact the interceptor main and sludge pipeline.

The application states that the effects of the reclamation construction on the MOP include loading stress on the pipeline and settlement of sediment/gravels under the pipeline. However, the application does not outline the consequences of damage to the pipeline and potential pollution of Lyall Bay of wastewater should this occur. Nor does the applicant recognise the potential for adverse effects on other infrastructure, specifically the interceptor main nd sludge pipeline.

Concerns from the Wellington City Council are described:

Construction activities … could affect the sludge pipeline (which carries sludge to the Southern Landfill) that generally follows Moa Point Road and the wastewater interceptor main under the southern end of the existing
runway that carries sewage to the WWTP. The sludge pipeline is a high
pressure pipeline and any damage or breach of it will result in significant adverse effects on the environment.

In their submission, WCC seek the protection of the pipeline, inceptor main and sludge pipeline in both their physical extents and their operational and maintenance capabilities. The submitter (WCC) states that any damage to the outfall or restriction in being able to maintain and operate the outfall has the potential to cause significant costs to the community in both monetary and environment…

[The city council is] not convinced that ‘burying’ the MOP under the runway reclamation is an acceptable result. A more detailed outline of the process to agree the mitigation and timing of its implementation is considered to be required in the consent conditions.

The airport’s view:

… the MOP will either be protected in place or realigned so that it will not be impacted by the reclamation. It will be up to the form of contract and the final construction programme whether moving (which will require additional consents) or protecting the outfall takes place prior to or concurrent with marine based reclamation works.

The report uses diplomatic words in its summaries. Here’s one of the summaries.

The proposed runway extension and SWFS will likely result in minor
effects in relation to physical disturbance and loss of habitat;

Construction noise, vibration and light will likely result in minor effects on
mammals and fish;

Sediment discharges during ground improvement work, placement of the
rock dyke, earthworks to remove the hillock and as a result of dewatering will likely result in minor effects;

Adverse effects from the proposal on the Taputeranga Reserve are likely to be less than minor.

Over 200 submissions raised concern about construction and operational noise. The report identifies the effect of the construction work on recreational users in the Lyall Bay area. They

… will be exposed to construction and haul route noise. Recreational users on Moa Point Road and beach and the breakwater will experience the highest level of construction noise (up to 60 dB) and haul route noise (61 dB).

But not to worry.

In summary, provided the applicant complies with the recommended conditions of consent, we consider the effects of construction noise on recreational users of the CMA in Lyall Bay will be less than minor.

However,

Effects on recreational users of the CMA at Moa Point is likely to be more than minor given its close proximity to the construction site. Albeit temporary (up to 48 months) construction noise will likely impact recreational amenity in this area

Other effects are identified, including fishing:

The temporary exclusion zone around the proposed runway extension construction site will restrict access to approximately half of the area used for gathering seafood between Moa Point and Hue-te-taha Peninsula during construction (3-4 years).

and surfing:

Access to the surf break Airport Rights will be lost permanently from commencement of the proposed runway construction.

Expert advice from Dr Michael Steven states:

I consider short term effects on water-based recreational activities, such as surfing and gathering kai moana to be more than minor within the areas of the exclusion zones. For some recreationists, such as surfers, adverse effects from the SWFS exclusion zone may be unacceptably adverse in the short term, and unable to be mitigated.
and:
For expert surfers, the loss of the Airport Rights break may be regarded as an unacceptable outcome, and an outcome that is beyond the potential of the SWFS to mitigate.
In summary, we consider the effects on surfing amenity as a result of the proposed runway extension will be more than minor because the Airport Rights surf break will be completely lost and the three other surf spots in Lyall Bay could have a reduction in characteristic surf rides of between 14-29%.

Dr Steven has also advised:

The proposed runway extension will result in highly adverse effects on the biophysical landscape/seascape in Lyall Bay east/Moa Point embayment (compared to the moderate rating applied by the applicant) given the proposal involves a total loss of 10.8ha of marine environment and its replacement with a terrestrial form.

For residents on Moa Point Road and the beach at Moa Point, I consider the effects on views from this area to be extreme, and unable to be remedied or mitigated. As such, I regard these effects as significant and unacceptably adverse.

Another expert considers the effects of the proposal on coastal bird habitat and says these will be more than minor and the potential effects on regional bird populations as a result of increased birdstrike could be significant.

The report however contains no analysis or criticism of the economic benefits being claimed for the longer runway:

With construction costs excluded, the economic wellbeing of the Wellington region has been assessed to improve by $1billion on the most likely scenario, even if that community were to fund the entire cost of the project through local and central taxes. The applicant acknowledges that how the runway extension would be funded is still to be determined.

The Regional Council’s report, in full, is here.

We have less than 3 weeks to collect submissions to the Environment Court that are opposing the proposed runway extension into Cook Strait. We have many wonderful groups and individuals who support us but need to get the 1000s of residents who will be adversely affected by this extension to have their voices heard by the court as well. The Airport and Council have done a great job in getting misinformation, spin and fantasies about limitless economic growth out into the public and there are a lot of misconceptions we have to battle to rouse people from their complacency. For example:

Everyone of the 1000s of residents living along the heavy truck hauling route – did you know up to 30 trucks an hour, filled with rubble, will rumble past your homes day and night, clogging up traffic at major choke points for up to 4 years?

Everyone who uses Lyall Bay recreationally – surfers, swimmers, surf life savers, dog walkers, fishermen, kai moana collectors – did you know about the 300m (or is it 250m? Different numbers in different reports, same with the final length of the runway) exclusion zone around the construction of both runway and wave focusing device which will make large parts of the bay basically off-limits for up to 4 years?

Note that this image shows exclusion zones that are less than the 250-300m ones mentioned in the reports
Note that this image shows exclusion zones that are less than the 250-300m ones mentioned in the reports

Everyone who cares about our environment – did you know that the environmental impact reports are fatally flawed and couldn’t undertake proper sampling or data collection as the airport deemed it ‘too costly’ and the Cook Strait was ‘too difficult to work in’? For example, out of 6 boreholes meant to determine the seismic stability of the Bay, only 1 was ever completed!

Everyone who cares about climate change – did you know that the added emissions, should the long-haul flights ever arrive, will sky rocket Wellington City’s emissions – already 25% of our total emissions profile – by at least 60million tonnes of CO2e? And that both major access roads to the airport are some of the most threatened by rising sea levels – something that isn’t even mentioned in the 5000+ pages of technical reports?

Everyone who cares about our elected Councillors wasting ratepayer money on corporate handouts and subsidies to billion dollar multi-nationals who are laughing all the way to the bank, whilst community groups like the Guardians of the Bays have to fund-raise and give up their members’ precious time and energy to fight them in court – Please join us to make our voices heard: http://www.actionstation.org.nz/wellington_airport_extension. We will run an information workshop for the public on August 1, 7pm at Haitaitai Bowling Club.

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