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

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.


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.
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.

“Wellington City Council has no Plan B to protect Wellington’s ratepayers if the Wellington Airport Extension doesn’t deliver,” according to business, recreational, community and environmental groups who are calling for more rigour around the proposal.

The Guardians of the Bays, a citizen-led umbrella organisation representing a growing number of groups of businesses and individuals who are concerned the runway extension will not deliver the benefits being promised by Wellington International Airport Limited and some City Councillors.

Co-chairs Dr Sea Rotmann and Richard Randerson said the airport is being presented to the public as Wellington’s main economic growth option.

“We are all keen on a progressive and successful Wellington. But the numbers being put up for this proposal simply don’t stack up.

“The Council has promised $90 million of ratepayer money, on top of $3 million already handed over to the airport, for a runway extension that has no business case. The Airport has refused to put its numbers under the scrutiny of the Government’s own Better Business Case process, which is required for getting Central Government funding.”

“Economically, the runway extension has the potential to lump Wellington ratepayers with a wasteful and unnecessary White Elephant requiring significant ratepayer subsidies and hindering economic growth for decades. Ratepayers throughout the region will be faced with higher rates and debt and there is no guarantee that any benefits will flow through to Wellingtonians.

“The only one who really wins from this extreme version of corporate welfare is Infratil” said Mr Randerson.

Dr Rotmann said the Airport has been over-exaggerating the tourism and visitor benefits.

“There is no evidence that if ‘you build it they will come’. The Singapore Airlines ‘win’ to fly to Singapore via Canberra comes at the cost of millions of ratepayer subsidies to the airline and is of no more benefit to Wellingtonians than already-available international flights through Auckland, Sydney or Melbourne,” she said. Singapore Airlines itself said it would not be able to fly this route without the additional passenger numbers from Canberra.

“If the airport extension is such a good idea then why is Infratil not paying for it, rather than relying on corporate welfare from ratepayers and taxpayers?

“We call on all mayoral and council candidates to demonstrate a deeper vision of what growing our city could look like, rather than just pinning it all on an airport extension.

“So far only a handful have said the airport extension needs closer scrutiny and questioned whether ratepayers should provide corporate welfare to Infratil to build it. It should be noted that some of those same mayoral candidates now asking more searching questions, voted for ratepayers to pay half of the airport’s resource consent application costs, even though the City only owns a third of the shares. We need a mayor and councillors that act in the best interests of all Wellingtonians, not just big business.”

Dr Rotmann said there will be many environmental and recreational impacts. The proposal would affect surfers, recreational fishers and other users of Lyall Bay. It will also harm sensitive ecological and environmental treasures, including little blue penguins, reef herons, giant kelp forests and other marine life that would suffer enormously from millions of tonnes of rubble being dumped into the South Coast. 11ha of ocean would need to be reclaimed without having a single airline lining up to fly here long-haul.

The proposal would also cause major traffic disruptions to Wellingtonians during the four-year construction period, as up to one truck every two minutes transfers material to and from the site, via SH1, the two tunnels, the Basin reserve and through the airport gates.

“This is a Wellington-wide issue. The Greater Wellington Regional Council and Wellington City Council officers who are currently checking the airport’s resource consent application have found many significant errors and gaps in the airport’s supporting evidence,” Dr Rotmann said.

“Wellingtonians have the right to know how their money is being spent. By refusing to properly answer the questions the Regional Council has asked on behalf of everyone, the Airport is failing to respect this right. The airport is either being highly disrespectful of the process or simply doesn’t have the answers,” she said.

The Guardians are encouraging Wellingtonians to have their say about the extension by making submissions to the Greater Wellington Regional Council and Wellington International Airport. The submission period runs until Friday 12 August.

A simple guideline for how to submit and where to send submissions can be found below.

“This is such an important decision for Wellington that we need to capture as broad a range of perspectives and views as possible,” said Dr Rotmann.

Submission guide:

[gview file=”https://guardiansofthebays341400583.files.wordpress.com/2021/06/628df-final-gotb-submissions-guide-5-july.pdf”%5D


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.



By Keith Johnson

While road transport increasingly grinds to a halt in Wellington and road rage is becoming common, partly consequent on Wellington City Council’s dog-in-the-manger approach to investment in roads, the Bigger is Better philosophy is receiving ringing endorsement from local authorities with respect to the aviation and maritime shipping industries.

Much has been published on this website about Wellington International Airport’s Runway Extension Project – including an article by Dr Sea Rotmann which draws attention to the massive contribution of air travel worldwide to CO2 emissions. Maritime transport is also a major emitter.

In this respect, Wellington Regional Council should be insisting upon a proper Multi-Criteria Assessment of the proposed dredging of Wellington Harbour by CentrePort.


A Multi-Criteria Assessment would cover all dimensions of a major public investment:

  1. Cost-Benefit Analysis [including the Business Case]
  2. Economic Impacts
  3. Environmental and Safety Impacts
  4. Social and Distributional Impacts

With the whole to be concluded with an over-arching summary of redlines and trade-offs.

Looking at the current situation, the parallels between the CentrePort proposal and the Runway Extension Project are very interesting:

  • Doubts about financial viability
  • Optimistic multiplier-based ‘economic’ rather than business case justification
  • Concern over who will eventually pay [ferry customers, GWC ratepayers] etc.
  • Environmental concerns

The one glaring difference is that Wellington ratepayers are not being asked to pay directly in the case of the Port.


Viability of Log Traffic growth as a major driver [with its associated road transport issues]


The silt is potentially toxic:


The cost could be anywhere between $20 million and $40 million:


The proposal could have adverse effects on recreational and commercial fishing, the recreational use of Wellington Harbour and artesian water pressure and purity in Eastbourne:


Wellingtonians will pay through their rate contributions to the Greater Wellington Council and possibly also through higher ferry fares to and from the South Island:


Any possible relationship between the dumping of silt and its migration towards the unstable deep sea submarine canyons in Cook Strait seems unconsidered:


Plus a couple of challenges on ‘shifting sands’ by ‘Old Saltie’ Jim Mikoz:

Dredging, dumping, and the moving river of shingle


Why Centreport’s dumping sites are in the wrong places

CentrePort’s Channel Deepening Project


CentrePort is applying for consents to deepen the harbour to allow for ships with draughts of up to 14.5metres at the harbour entrance and the Thorndon Container Wharf.

These consents would provide CentrePort the flexibility to dredge in one stage or a series of stages, allowing the port to deepen the channel only as required, in response to the size of ships actually visiting New Zealand.

An extensive optimisation exercise was undertaken to identify the most cost effective design delivering the least amount of dredging for the best operational outcome.

As Wellington is a naturally deep harbour, no deepening is required in the main harbour basin and the overall volume proposed to be removed is less than at other ports to achieve the same outcomes.

At the harbour entrance consents are being sought that would allow the port to remove up to 6.0 million cubic metres of seabed sediment.

The proposed disposal site is off Fitzroy Bay, in water approximately 50 metres deep.  This site is a refinement of the existing consented disposal area.

The main container berth and northern approach at Thorndon Container Wharf would also be deepened, with placement of that material, up to 270,000 cubic metres, in deeper water near the berth.

Alternatives for disposal have, and will continue to be considered [hopefully].

OPINION: Evan’s Bay is an iconic part of the Wellington harbour “blue belt”.

Stormy days have their own wild beauty, while in sunny times the water is dotted with sails, recreational anglers hang out their lines, and swimmers, cyclists and walkers soak up the warmth and the ambience.

Pods of orcas and other fish cruise up the deep water channel by the Miramar wharf where an airport runway extension is now proposed.

In July 100 residents from the eastern suburbs attended a meeting to express their concern about a proposal that will have a serious impact on one of Wellington’s major natural assets.

The extension into Evans Bay will be both long and wide, as taxi-ing and turn-around space are also required. The height could be 10-12 metres above sea level, and with a water depth of around 17 metres huge quantities of fill will be needed, with consequent damage to the natural environment and fish spawning grounds.

This is not just an issue for the eastern suburbs. It will hit all Wellington ratepayers in the back pocket as they are asked to stump up $200 million (plus interest) of the estimated $300m cost.

But how firm is that estimate? Will it include changes to roading and other infrastructure? What are the cost implications for fuel tanker operations at Burnham wharf, right by the new extension?

The claimed potential benefits from a 2012 Business and Economic Research Limited report (Berl) are optimistic. Increased numbers of tourists are mentioned, for example, but for many overseas visitors Wellington is a “through” city rather than a “to” city.

Visitors largely start and finish their journeys in Auckland, Christchurch or Queenstown. Wellington’s best strategy is to attract tourists to stop and stay longer in Wellington on the way through.

Berl also estimates that foreign student numbers could more than double from the present 4800 to 10,000. This seems a somewhat inflated figure to achieve by eliminating a domestic flight connection. The quality of what’s on offer in the tertiary sector is the critical incentive.

A direct flight to, say, Singapore, could be useful for passengers to Singapore, or in transit to Europe. But for other Asian destinations Singapore would simply replace Auckland or Christchurch as the transfer point.

Given Berl’s optimistic assumptions on passenger numbers, airlines might well be having doubts about load factors, especially if a new service undermined loadings to Auckland or Christchurch. Insufficient passenger numbers doomed the AirAsia X service between Kuala Lumpur and Christchurch.

In terms of aircraft operations, clearing the Newlands hill is already a concern for pilots, and an extended runway would mean heavier planes on a steeper flight path. Just recently 20 passengers had to be offloaded because of light wind conditions. It is entirely possible that advancing aircraft technology will allow larger planes to land on the existing runway without an extension.

Climate change is another challenge. Airlines offering heavily discounted fares tempt customers to take more flights, but in London recently plans to extend Heathrow were abandoned out of concern to reduce carbon emissions.

Of major concern is the question of who pays for the runway extension. Infratil, 67 per cent owner of the airport, aims to return money to shareholders at the rate of 20 per cent after tax (Runway won’t fly without city cash, Aug 15).

Tellingly, it added that it would not contribute more than 33 per cent of the cost ($100 million) because the project does not stack up on a user-pays basis. Instead it is looking to ratepayers or taxpayers to come up with the remaining $200m.

The Government has said it is not a priority for government funding, which leaves Wellington ratepayers exposed to paying the bill.

With only one-third council ownership, citizens are being asked to pay two-thirds of the cost. The Wellington City Council has a poor track record in stewardship of ratepayers’ money, having recently agreed to fund a disproportionate 50 per cent of the $2m resource consent costs.

Adding $200m to the existing city debt of $380m is fiscally irresponsible for a project with very questionable benefits. Mayoral and council candidates are currently making commitments to contain debt levels and rates. Many are also making commitments to social housing, a living wage, improved public transport and earthquake strengthening.

These are issues of greater priority with guaranteed benefits for all Wellingtonians.

Richard Randerson is the chairman of the Guardians of Evans Bay.