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?

Link to original post here.

Tuesday 22 Nov 2016 9:18 p.m.

By Chris Holden

A new reservoir designed to prevent Wellington being cut off from water for up to 100 days following an earthquake is being labelled an absolute priority by a Wellington City councillor.

In an unlikely move, Green Party Councillor Iona Pannett, who chairs the Wellington City Council’s City Strategy Committee, has revealed she is open to considering a public-private partnership to construct the $25 million, 35 million litre reservoir above the Prince of Wales park in central Wellington.

Without the reservoir, Wellingtonians could face up to a 100-day wait to get their water back up and running after a major quake, and Ms Pannett says after last Monday’s 7.8 tremor it must be a priority now.

Ms Pannett’s preference is that the funding comes from central Government but she is open to a public-private partnership.

“Discussions with central Government must begin immediately,” Ms Pannett says.

“The Wellington Council simply doesn’t have the funding, and will now need to look to other options.”

Documents provided by Wellington Water to Wellington City councillors in 2012 estimate getting water reconnected following a break in the bulk supply lines could take 90 days for the CBD, 100 days for east Wellington, 40 days for Porirua, 15 days for Upper Hutt and between five and 30 days for Lower Hutt.

The Wellington region’s entire water supply is currently distributed via three bulk supply lines, all of which are located on major fault lines.

Wellington Water spokesman Alexander van Passen confirmed the time estimates given in the 2012 document are still accurate.

“Wellington Water will aim to begin reconnecting priority customers after the seven day mark, which could take up to 30 days.”

Priority customers include rest homes and hospitals.

“Some non-priority customers may also face wait times of up to 100 days.”

He said the network was undergoing upgrades to the network which aimed to increase its durability and resistance in the event of a major earthquake.

In the event of the bulk water supply lines being severed in an earthquake, the reservoir could be used to provide water to the region’s only fully-functioning hospital in Newtown, which at the moment only has a five day emergency supply of water.

Wellington City Council sought a joint funding agreement with the Capital and Coast DHB and the Greater Wellington Regional Council in 2003 when the reservoir was first mooted. But negotiations broke down in 2011 when the DHB walked away from the deal.

Attempts to resuscitate the deal have since failed, and the Wellington City Council’s chief asset manager Anthony Wilson warned in January this year that if the DHB did not contribute to funding the reservoir, “it would not be able to use it when built”.

“It is not local government’s responsibility to supply emergency water to the hospital,” he told Fairfax.

Former Wellington Mayoral candidate and current Capital and Coast DHB member Nick Leggett, who campaigned for building the reservoir, laughed off the suggestion of a public-private partnership.

He says funding is a question of prioritising vanity projects over core infrastructure and its not the DHB’s responsibility to fund council infrastructure.

“The safety of Wellingtonians should come before a $120 million film museum and $90 million set aside for the airport runway extension.”

Councillor Pannett agreed that funding for the reservoir should come before funding for the runway extension, putting her at odds with recently-elected mayor Justin Lester.

When contacted by Newshub, Mr Lester refused to comment other than to say the reservoir was a “priority”.

It is understood the Wellington City Council will urgently meet on Thursday this week to discuss Wellington’s capability to withstand a major earthquake following last Monday’s earthquake which caused substantial damage to the Wellington CBD.

We have submitted the following to the WCC’s Annual Plan – as they were asking for ‘good ideas’ from the community of how to spend our money better. It may be largely lip-service, seeing the Council has gotten a lot of flak recently over their public ‘consultation’ (or lack thereof) processes, but we felt it was important to continue to engage with the Council and to use this democratic process.

Dr Sea Rotmann, our Co-Chair spoke to the submission and Clive Anstey had also sent it round to every Councillor with a cover letter beforehand. Councillor Andy Foster, to his credit, replied with an immediate and thoughtful response, outlining the many caveats that would still need to be met before the Council would decide to spend the $90m that were already earmarked for this proposal in the Long Term Plan. He also spoke to Dr Rotmann and Mr Anstey during the break, which may have been a bit of a mistake: He told them that his mind was still completely open (good!) but that he wasn’t sure that emotions (on both sides) weren’t getting in the way of the facts (our main emotion is frustration that the airport’s ‘facts’ are largely based on obfuscation, spin and misinformation, but OK). As example, he gave the issue that was raised very eloquently by a previous speaker who asked the Council to ensure that they would get the dividends they deserve for their shareholding, not the peanuts they actually got from the airport once its creative accountants were done with it. Councillor Foster also said that the Council would be satisfied with little more but a ‘handshake’ commitment from airlines instead of an actual signed contract, which would be needed in order to get a proper business case through the Treasury guidelines. We clearly told him that the public (and the Central Government who is meant to co-fund this White Elephant) certainly would not be happy with such a ‘nudge, wink’ deal seeing the amount of public money that was at stake – and the many airports in NZ and overseas that have failed to materialise the promised planes after extending their runways.

When Dr Rotmann went to speak, she had the 2015 WIAL Annual Report figures open on her phone. In response to Andy Foster’s claim that the Council was getting its fair share of dividends from the airport, here are the actual numbers: WIAL made $108m in profit; has $842m in assets; $438m in equity and the Council got a measly $12m in dividends. We reminded the Councillors that they had paid 50% of ratepayer money towards the airport’s resource consent reports and the Region said it would put up half of the cost of the runway extension ($150m – $90m by WCC and $60m by the other Councils, none of whom have put any money for it aside in their long-term plans, however). That is despite the (widely discredited) cost-benefit analysis by Sapere claiming that only 1/3 of the benefits would actually stay in the Region.

Dr Rotmann also raised some very good questions about what the Council’s actual job was: Was it to use public money for the common good, e.g. ensuring that the Commons and infrastructure issues such as sewerage, traffic congestion, earthquake strengthening and mitigating climate change impacts such as rising sea levels were taken care of? Or: to throw public money at a private company with billion dollar assets  – without a business case, without proper consultation and without transparent oversight – because politicians regard it as a ‘sexier’, vanity project that will make them look like they’re doing something for ‘economic growth’ during an election year?

She then asked the very pertinent question that all Councillors who had read the 27 airport reports should raise their hands. Unsurprisingly, not one hand went up. Dr Rotmann had read the reports and reminded the Council that, as a scientist holding a PhD on environmental impacts on the marine environment, she was rather uniquely qualified to comment on some of them. She reiterated some of the many failings and holes that the reports clearly showed: insufficient data collection; the inability (due to ‘adverse Cook Strait conditions’) to complete even one of the seismic boreholes that needed to be undertaken to establish that the geomorphology in Lyall Bay was actually capable of taking the 3 million tonnes of rubble safely; comments on the (apparently minor) impact on the marine habitat without knowing the actual quality and composition of the infill that was to be dumped into the bay; the design not having been locked down; different runway lengths being given etc. The faces of the Councillors did suggest that some concern was raised when she said that these reports would not stand up in Court, as they were.

Dr Rotmann implored the Council to insist that independent (i.e. by including community groups such as the Guardians when choosing the experts) peer-reviews and more data collection had to be undertaken before heading to a resource consent hearing. She also reminded the Councillors that their own cost-benefit analysis showed that if we waited ten years, we would get almost the same amount of benefits but without taking many of the risks. For example, we’d then know how well the (Council-subsidised) Singapore-Canberra route was actually going; we’d know of any technological advances that could mean we may be able to fly long-haul without an extension; we’d know further impacts from global climate change decisions such as including aviation emissions in carbon trading schemes etc. Even if we put just our $150m into the bank, by 2060 (when the cost-benefit analysis said we’d be $2b better off, NZ-wide, after spending at least $300m) we’d get over $2b in interest and the whole amount would actually go to the Region! So, for half the cost and none of the risks, we could get the same benefits! Maybe Justin Lester should start talking to Kiwibank about long-term deposit rates instead of handing out secret sweeteners to airlines?

The main point that we are making is this: the Council does not have the mandate to throw public money at a private company without very clearly being able to show that the benefits stack up (this includes a full business case and contractually committed airlines, as well as all costing and funding issues being ironed out); that the benefits far outweigh the many social and environmental impacts of a project such as this; that public consultation and due diligence has been undertaken at all the steps, including independent peer reviews; and that the facts and data are collected following the scientific method and not wishful thinking, grossly overstated assumptions and a fantasy that if ‘we build it, they will come’. Politicians like sexy projects, they like big projects that show that they are ‘getting things done’. Dealing with our massive sewerage, traffic and natural disaster preparedness issues may not be anywhere near as sexy as the ‘Lester/Wade-Brown runway extension’, but are what the actual mandate of the City Council and its elected officials is. Incidentally, all these isseus (sewerage, traffic and natural disaster preparedness) are NEGATIVELY impacted upon by the proposed extension!

So please, dear Councillors: Stop the corporate handouts (including throwing almost $10m of ratepayer money from a non-transparent slush fund at the world’s third largest airline with a Singapore head quarter) and stop calling opponents asking for transparent processes and proper facts and figures as being “Anti-Wellington” in the media. This is unbecoming of a Councillor’s job – it is hard enough to fight the spin and willful obfuscation of facts when it is coming from a billion dollar multinational. But it is an outrage when community groups looking out for the ratepayers’ interests get treated so unfairly by their elected officials. You can do better, City Council(lors)!

The esteemed Wellington City Councillors during the Annual Plan hearings

Our written submission to WCC in full:

The Wellington region faces significant infrastructure and environmental pressures which require huge investment and the proposed $150 million of regional money would be far better directed towards any of these. Such as:

  • Replacing stormwater and sewerage infrastructure and carrying out further earthquake strengthening in our CBD.
  • Addressing traffic bottlenecks – which would be exacerbated by the extra ‘truck a minute’ which would be using SH1 for three years if the runway extension proceeds.
  • Preparing for the forecast sea level rises on large parts of our coast. An issue supported by significant scientific data – and which is predicted to affect both main access roads to the airport.

These, and other issues, are already having significant negative impacts across the region – and will only worsen if not addressed.

By contrast, there are many factors regarding the extension plan which are still very much unknown quantities. These include:

  • Adopting a “build it and they will come” approach to a proposal when no major airline has suggested they will fly long-haul to Wellington.
  • It is not yet known how well the Singapore-Canberra flights will perform without subsidies such as the waiving of landing fees, marketing support and the direct subsidy by ‘Destination Wellington’. The precautionary principle would be to wait for firm results from this before pressing ahead with an extension proposal.
  • It is highly likely that aviation and shipping emissions will finally be taken into carbon accounting. This will have a huge impact on the aviation industry, especially on such a far-flung minor destination as Wellington.
  • The MBIE surf impact research is yet to be undertaken at Lyall Bay. The results of this need to be available before ‘solutions’ are offered to surfers. If not, the outcome could be a potentially unsatisfactory solution that may destroy the recreational value of this bay forever.
  • To date, the airport has only carried out a single seismic borehole to determine the geomorphology of the bay. We understand further boring was prevented by bad weather. Further boreholes should be undertaken before more ratepayer money is committed to a project that may be deemed too unsafe to proceed with.
  • The actual infill sediment composition needs to be tested before any assessment can be made on possible impacts on the marine fauna.
  • To date, all serious independent economists that have reviewed Sapere’s report have concluded the benefits are likely to be negative. It is essential to have realistic numbers for the market catchment and thus passenger forecast of the Wellington region before progressing with an extension plan.

Furthermore, the airport itself requires attention in other areas, particularly the Southern end of the runway. Much could be done to make the runway tunnel and breakwater safer. The flimsy ‘build it and they will come’ approach that is currently being taken to the proposed extension project should also be a cause for great concern. Even the New Zealand Airline Pilots’ Association – and let’s face it, no organisation is better placed to comment on the proposed extension’s safety – has stated that it would not be safe for long-haul flights without the entire bay being filled in. This would cost around half a billion dollars and surely be seen as uneconomical for one extra flight a day.

Singapore Airlines seems to be coming anyway – although, as mentioned previously, it’s a case of ‘wait and see’ regarding operating without the airport and Council subsidy. It can also rely on extra numbers from Canberra and has obviously not regarded either Capital as being a valid business case to fly to directly. So why is an extension deemed necessary?

We call on you to listen to public concerns, listen to the Pilots Association, read all the reports which are available – not just those prepared by the airport – with a critical eye and get them peer-reviewed. Stop repeating airport ‘spin’ as fact. It is essential to take into account that the airport’s mandate is to make money by getting the public to pay for this extension to their asset base. Your mandate is to protect public interest from private machinations. Public money should not be spent on corporate welfare, particularly one built on flimsy foundations which currently do not stand up to scrutiny.

How else will Wellington benefit from your idea:

Using the money currently earmarked for the extension on issues such as stormwater, traffic and natural disaster resilience, would result in a safer, more liveable and smarter city. Wellington could then be promoted as a smart, green liveable city, encouraging new residents and greater visitor numbers.

The alternative is potentially a huge white elephant on the South Coast and a vast waste of public money, the damaging effects of which would reverberate for generations to come.

The year was 2013, a few days after written submissions followed by oral submissions had closed against the 2013/2014 Draft Annual Plan. The ink on the pages of the Draft Plan had not had time to dry while awaiting approval by the Council. The opening agenda item of the 29th May 2013 Wellington City Council meeting was laid down to approve the sum of $1 million toward the resource consent application by Wellington International Airport Ltd. It came from a late bid by WIAL dated 20th May 2013 which sought funding to extend the existing runway at Wellington Airport.

Now, wait a minute, the Draft Plan had already progressed through all stages yet new rules had been laid down to accept this late request. The question remains as to why WIAL was provided with a special privilege for this application? I wonder what the Local Government Act states? It doesn’t end there, as supporting Council documentation to Councillors stated that the $1 million could be “funded from identified savings in the 2012/2013 financial year.” What is more the document stated that “no consultation” had eventuated.

At a time of staff restructuring, proposed cuts to library hours, millions of dollars which were required for earthquake strengthening and the storm water and sewage infrastructure being in disrepair, “identified savings” had been found and devoted to the airport, a largely private company with significant annual turnover. Clearly, a blind eye was directed toward an application that was completely devoid of a formal, public and transparent process and procedure. The Funding Agreement of that arrangement also clearly stipulated that the maximum amount would not exceed $1 million.

Alas, it wasn’t long before WIAL went back on the begging trail, and regardless of the 2013 Funding Agreement, backstage antics once again took over, and the Council agreed to a further $1.95 million in December 2014. Not from “excess funds” this time, but from WIAL shareholding returns to the Wellington City Council. Remarkably, the “return” from WIAL almost exactly matched the amount of the required additional funding.

The ratepayer has now contributed $2.95 million to this process without the cost of Officers’ time being included or made public.

In the meantime, the Mayor in her conflicting role as a Director of WIAL, together with Kevin Lavery attended a meeting of the Mayoral Forum held on Friday 27th March 2015. The Forum comprised of Mayors from Wellington City Council; Kapiti District Council; Hutt City Council; Upper Hutt City Council; South Wairarapa District Council; Carterton District Council; Porirua City Council; Greater Wellington Regional Council; and Masterton District Council. Mayor Wade-Brown participated in the discussion but left the room when it came to the vote.

The Forum resolved in principle that Wellington City Council would contribute $90 million and regional councils would contribute another $60 million toward a proposed 350 metre runway extension of Wellington Airport provided that:

  1. That there is a robust business case
  2. A named airline has committed to flying here long-haul
  3. A performance-based funding formula (eg a loan to be written off against delivery of agreed criteria
  4. The availability of central government funding
  5. An appropriate funding level from WIAL – the owner (which is currently committing only $50 million, 3 times less than the Council’s agreement).

My arithmetic tells me that after WIAL’s contribution there is a shortfall of at least $100-150 million. When several Ministers have already put the damper on any funding it begs the question as to who will stump up with the balance?

I wonder how many ratepayers in regional areas are aware that their respective council have made such an undertaking? Not many I suggest, as to date, apart from a dubious LTP process by the Wellington City Council, there has not been any public consultation on this. In the press release of the Mayoral Forum Mayor Guppy of Upper Hutt said that there was “a compelling business case with over 700 people per day each way flying long-haul from Wellington’s market catchment.”

That’s very interesting, as to date no business case has been produced.

How then can all these commitments be bandied around without any knowledge of how much the all-important runway will cost or what is actually proposed? In fact no one has addressed the question of increased costs, let alone the publication of any clear plans to date. It’s all about estimated assumptions from a discredited economic impact statement.

It seems WIAL has been trying to “sell” the proposal as a ruse and our Councillors are falling for it.

While attending a recent City Council meeting I learned that a High Court hearing is to be heard in November between Civil Aviation Authority and the NZ Pilots Association that will address the length of the Runway End Safety Areas (RESAs) at Wellington Airport. One party states that 90 metres at each end is satisfactory for long-haul flights while the other claims 240 metres is needed. Imagine the additional cost (both economic and environmental) this would amount to if the court’s decision requires an additional 240 metres!

The Mayor of Wellington made approaches to Chinese financiers on her recent journey to China where no actual reported deal was signed. It’s difficult to imagine how any Chinese financier would fund any project, let alone the proposed Wellington Airport runway extension, with a pay-back of >40 years and no proper business case. Furthermore, no discussion has eventuated to date talking about what would happen if Infratil decides to sell to the best bidder once and if the extended runway is completed and paid for by the hapless public.

What a circus!

WCC China delegation (Photo: Stuff)

We dug up the second arrangement between the Council and the airport, where the Council agreed to fund the airport with an extra $1.95m towards fast-tracking the runway extension through a board of inquiry process. It’s a fascinating read, especially when you look at how badly the airport misjudged the initial costings and how it is getting the Council to co-fund its EPA process as well, even though it says this will be at the ‘cost of the applicant’. Hmmm. Another great insight is the Council’s own peer-review of the two airport reports (EY economic impact statement reviewed by PwC and INTERVista long-haul demand report reviewed by AirBiz). Even though they are summarised as ‘supporting the logic, methodology and process used by the WIAL reports’ when you actually read through them you find some very interesting caveats and cautions. For example:

  • the passenger catchment area of 1.1 million people has been hugely overblown. Instead of the claimed 472,000 passengers that demand long-haul flights out of Wellington it is only 104,000! A quote from Price Waterhouse Cooper for the City Council: “PwC advises WCC that the potential to realise the benefits claimed in the EY report become progressively less certain the further the catchment is drawn”
  • the EY report also identified the Asian region as the one with the most demand from Wellington travellers, however it is Australia (by far!) then the UK and US that attract most long-haul travellers. Another quote: “This means that for the current domestic demand the runway extension for Asian travel is not priority”
  • Then there was of course the hoary old chestnut in the EY report that ‘direct services to Wellington will impact the choice of city that international students make when deciding on which University to go to’. Unsurprisingly PwC found that “the quality of education/course/institution is the most significant contributing factor for international students” etc.

We are almost certain that the airport’s claim that NIWAs environmental marine assessment report shows that there will be ‘no sediment runoff, no impact on the water column, it is not an ecologically significant site and no habitat for endangered animals’ is also misquoted and overblown. It will be interesting to pick apart their reports when they are finally released to the public (when??), and match the actual analysis to their spin and half-truths…


Tidiothe bumbling shambles that is the Wellington International Airport and Wellington City Council’s pipe dream for an airport expansion rolls on with more misinformation and lack of co-ordination by the various parties no doubt costing us millions of dollars with absolutely nothing to show for it but a report that says we shouldn’t go there.

The Prime Minister won’t back it, the Economics Minister won’t back it, the Community doesn’t back it (Our Long Term Plan feedback was 81% opposed), the Airlines don’t back it, the Airline Industry doesn’t back it, even WIAL are not prepared to pay their share to build it, Air New Zealand have said that even if it is built they won’t use it as a hub, and in the last few weeks the entire extension has been taken to the High Court over safety concerns by the New Zealand Airline Pilot’s Association.

This is a white elephant growing larger by the day.

The Guardians of the Bays, a residents group that has broad support from both local neighbours on all sides, the rest of the city and region, and wider, fired up their website this week with a lot of very interesting information. What is very very interesting is that all the Long Term Plan (LTP) feedback shows that more than 81% of us don’t want it.

A bit of a problem for the Council that has now sunk millions and millions of our taxpayer dollars into a project that really should probably be thrown on the back burner for a few years. But that would out egg on Celia and Justin’s faces, and we can’t have that.

Justin Lester is in fact, completely re-writing history, or trying to:

“Consultation hasn’t started, because we don’t have a project. We’ll absolutely be talking to everybody when the process comes underway, then there will be a community consultation.” – Source

So is Justin suggesting that the formal LTP feedback on the runway extension was not consultation and doesn’t count?

I guess that would be handy, given that the feedback is overwhelmingly against the idea.

Then there was the three hundred and fifty submissions on a longer airport that were collected through the shiny long term plan website. Again, majority opposed and lots of questions. And, again, not counted as formal submissions by the Council even though the website alluded to them being just that.

The airport was working closely with Moa Point Rd residents before the wider public consultation began and would be holding another meeting with them in the next month to put forward a proposal addressing concerns raised at previous meetings.

I hear rumor that they are working on some kind of buy out plan. If that is true, then that would make the entire process a lot smoother, now wouldn’t it. I stress that is rumor.

The New Zealand Airline Pilots’ Association (NZALPA) technical director Rob Torenvlied said the safety area in Wellington was currently 90 metres.

He said he believed the law meant any extension should first include a Runway End Safety Area (RESA) of 240 metres, or an equivalent solution such as crushable concrete, which he said was considered international best practice. – Source

The first of many legal challenges no doubt. Basically they are saying that any extension should put safety first and that will eat up a significant proportion of the extension.

Now there is trickiness, it would seem, going on in the halls of power because you will remember that as part of the LTP the Council agreed to paying $90 million, directly going against our consultation feedback, if the business case stacked up, resource consent was made, and we have a committed airline. 

Council will want to see that the business case is compelling, the resource consent has been approved and we have a satisfactory airline commitment. We will not be spending ratepayer dollars on an extension until these issues have been resolved. – Source

What I hear is that the resource consent is likely to be jumped by the airport and Council going straight to the Environment Court. So if that is true, then they have broken one promise already.

I also hear that trying to get the Terms of Reference for the Business Case is being met with heavy resistance. So much for transparency. It will be argued that the Terms of Reference could skew the Business Case in favour of the airport and Council.

Apparently it is also earning itself a new nickname, the runway that is, being termed the “skateboard runway.” The mind boggles. Does that mean it will have a ramp at either end similar to an aircraft carrier or something else?

As to an airline, Helene Ritchie point out recently that a local Taupo airline was now flying to Wellington, and did that count? Tongue in cheek of course, but still, you have to wonder.

I am going to try and catch up with the airport in the next couple of weeks to get their side, because from this angle, it just seems mad.

After a week where the Council voted against nuclear weapons and to put a camp site next to the tip, confidence is low.

All of this leads me to the following skit. I want you to replace “Parrot” with “Airport Extension”.

Have a great weekend.

We have gone through the trouble of looking at all 1049 formal LTP submissions. By searching for the term ‘airport’, we have identified over 100 submitters that specifically mentioned the runway extension proposal and have summarised their views in this document. It is very interesting to note that 87 submitters (>81%) were strongly opposed, with only 20 being for the runway extension. More interesting is that the opposition was largely made up of long, strong arguments against it (49 pages) whereas the proponents only used 9 pages to describe their reasoning, of which 7 were from the WIAL (airport) submission. Almost all others had significant caveats (highlighted in red), including the Chamber of Commerce, Property Council, Port Nicholson Trust, Ernst & Young, Deloittes and Kensington Swan. All progressive associations that submitted on this topic were against it. It is quite obvious that the Council did not make a similar analysis when reporting on the supposed support of their big 8 projects in the LTP!

LTP Submissions Summary

Here was the online ‘consultation’ of the WCC for the runway extension as proposed in the LTP. This did not find its way into being considered an official submission, not that that was made clear to the submitters. It is very interesting to read the comments, pro and con as it becomes clear that the people who went online to vote for it, mainly give short statements like “Just get it done’ whereas the people who voted against it give long and considered reasons why they oppose it. It also needs to be noted that the question the Council asked in the LTP was highly disingenuous – ‘Do you support better air connectivity?’ is very different to ‘Do you support a $300m runway extension without a business case, plan or committed airline?’.

This is the final LTP, after considerable submissions against the runway extension have been heard and received. Some major caveats have been added to the ring-fenced $90m for the runway extension:

The LTP now says that the Council will make a final decision on this project and whether to commit funding to construction once:

  • WIAL has obtained resource consent for the project
  • The Council has received and considered a cost-benefit analysis and business case from WIAL
    • that will be independently reviewed.

Other key considerations that the Council has said will need to be considered before it makes its final decision relate to:

  • The resilience of a runway extension to weather and climate change
  • The proposed investment vehicle and any revenue agreement
  • Satisfactory airline commitments
  • Funding arrangements for construction and confirmed construction costs
  • The governance and management structure to oversee construction.

The Council has also said it will undertake further public consultation before making a final decision on whether to commit funding to construct the runway extension.