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.”

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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