By Tom Hunt and Thomas Manch, January 8, 2019

Sea​ Rotmann has six more months of uncertainty after a decision allowing Wellington Airport long-lingering runway extension application to remain on hold until May.

Further down Rotmann’s seaside road, it is six more months of  sleepless nights and “wondering what the hell is going to happen” for Martyn Howells.

The Moa Point residents’ lives have been thrown deeper into limbo after the Environment Court agreed to keep Wellington Airport’s resource consent application on hold, while it waits for a decision from the CAA director.

In that December decision, the court made the unusual move of ruling against Guardians of the Bays – the group opposing the extension – but awarding them costs.

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Sea Rotmann from Moa Point is unhappy, as the resource consent process for Wellington Airport's runway extension has been granted another six months.
ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF
Sea Rotmann from Moa Point is unhappy, as the resource consent process for Wellington Airport’s runway extension has been granted another six months.

​Rotmann, a doctor in marine ecology by trade who has lived on Moa Point Rd for 15 years, supplied an affidavit to the court.

These past few years as the application to extend the runway worked its way through courts has seen her become an expert in legal processes. It seems she could talk in legalese for hours.

She appreciated the court awarding costs but granting the extension meant more hell for residents. If the airport had been forced to go back to square one there would have been a break from the constant litigation, she believed.

“It would remove stress for us for several years not being involved in litigation.”

She had planned to live there for the rest of her life and planned to build a a “super efficient hobbit hole” in the hill above. Instead, she feels like she is living in The Castle, a cult movie about a man battling an airport trying to take his home from him.

The view from Te Raekaihau Point with an extended Wellington Airport runway.
WELLINGTON INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT/SUPPLIED
The view from Te Raekaihau Point with an extended Wellington Airport runway.

 

“I do feel like this is David versus Goliath.”

A few homes down, Howells paraphrased a judge: “The sword of Damocles has been hung over our heads”.

“It gives you sleepless nights … you don’t know where you are going to end up. It’s just the uncertainty.”

If the runway went ahead he would likely be allowed to stay in his home but it would mean his view across Cook Strait to the Kaikōura ranges would be replaced by a runway. There would also be years of construction noise.

To Rotmann the noise would make it either legally, or practically, impossible to stay in the home she hoped to die in.

Sea Rotmann standing in front of her Moa Point home.
ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF
Sea Rotmann standing in front of her Moa Point home.

 

And the Environment Court has shown some contrition for Rotmann and Howells’ position, in granting the Guardians of the Bay costs despite their losing the case.

“We appreciate that it is unusual to reserve costs in favour of unsuccessful parties, however their applications were made for understandable reasons … They should not have to carry any cost in this situation.”

Lawyer for Guardians of the Bay, James Gardner-Hopkins, asked the court to strike out the airport’s extension request, but was rejected.

A 90-metre runway end safety area at each end, as part of the prior resource consent application, was ticked off by Civil Aviation Authority’s director, but overturned by the Supreme Court in December 2017.

Wellington Airport said it would resubmit its application to the director, hoping for an October 31, 2018 decision. This did not happen, and an extension until May 31, 2019 was sought.

An artist impression of the improvements planned for Moa Point Rd as part of the Wellington Airport runway extension project. The design features a new shared promenada, seating, a photography area and water access platforms.
WELLINGTON INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT/SUPPLIED
An artist impression of the improvements planned for Moa Point Rd as part of the Wellington Airport runway extension project. The design features a new shared promenada, seating, a photography area and water access platforms.

The court determined the resource consent would remain “on hold” until May, despite it being “the less unsatisfactory of the two unsatisfactory options before us”.

The court also noted “significant concern” with the accuracy of technical reports underpinning the application, now three-to four-years out of date.

“We have no doubt that many of the participants in these proceedings will have ‘had enough’.

“It reflects badly on the administration of justice when proceedings become as prolonged as these have and we accept that there is a consequential adverse and real effect on the community which arises as a result of the delay.”

Steve Sanderson, chief executive of Wellington International Airport, said the decision was positive “especially given the overwhelming support from Wellingtonians for direct long haul flights.”

“As with any large infrastructure project of this nature, we’ve always recognised this is a long-term process and there will be challenges along the way.

“Our team has also worked tirelessly to get the runway extension to this point and we remain committed to bringing the project to fruition and delivering the benefits for Wellington, the region and the country.

“We now await a decision by the Civil Aviation Authority on its review of the length of the runway end safety area for the project.”

* An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Wellington Airport had been granted six extra months to submit resource consent documents

A few years ago, I wrote a blog about what it means to be a Moa Pointer. As much as I waxed lyrically about the “best sunset spot in town” and our amazing, if often endangered natural taonga, I have to highlight my prescience when writing these words: “It is important to note that not going through the fast-tracked board of inquiry process is an admission that they know they would fail. Going through the more protracted Environment Court hearings has nothing to do with a ‘more open and transparent process’ and everything with buying themselves time and bleeding the opponents dry due to the high costs associated with fighting a project like this through the Court. It also means many more years of this existential threat hanging over our heads, which is stressful in many ways – emotionally, financially and physically.”

Why is this so prescient and what has being a Moa Pointer got to do with the Environment Court?

Well, as we found out in yet another court hearing yesterday, this damned process will likely drag on for at least another 1.5 years – a total of 4 years since the airport first lodged its consent application – before we even start hearing evidence! Damned, even by Judge Dwyer who wryly said that the “road to hell is paved with good intentions” when commenting on his decision to grant extensions of the case to the airport in the past. He also said that “There will be no satisfactory outcome when a final decision on the Wellington Airport extension resource consent is released” – meaning that either the airport, or the community will be upset with his decision to strike out (or not) the application.

To be honest, I am not so sure that that is indeed the case. Even though the airport argued against our motion to strike out – displaying the usual arrogance and contempt for the affected environment, residents and communities fighting to preserve this special place in Lyall Bay – it certainly did not put much effort into proving it was serious, or why they needed to continue with this farce for another couple of years. In fact, the laziness with which they approached this hearing was made abundantly clear when they provided only one “technical” affidavit saying all their reports based on data collected in 2014 were still “tickety-boo” (as Judge Dwyer joked). This came from a planner based in Dunedin who neither had any of the technical expertise to comment on the highly technical 5000 pages of report data, nor much, if any knowledge of the local environment in Lyall Bay – and the many changes that happened here since 2014.

What was worse was that the airport’s counsel took it upon herself to ask to strike out the local resident’s affidavits, “because they are just opinions (of 3 residents with expertise in marine ecology and anthropogenic impact assessments, local planning issues, and surf impacts) and over exaggerate their prejudice”. She also thought it wise to quip that we “didn’t have to waste our time talking to the media or writing blogs, all you had to do was read the monthly updates from the airport.” As Radio NZ pointed out, this dismissive comment drew heckles from us Guardians in the audience. And rightfully so.

Our wonderful and brilliant lawyer James Gardner-Hopkins, who is also a magnificent dresser btw!, steered clear of any such direct barbs against “his friends” in the opposing counsel. In fact, he even helped argue their case when Judge Dwyer made it clear that the court took any potential issue for new residents and affected parties not being able to partake in the court case (as submissions for s274 parties had already closed over a year ago), very, very seriously. Unfortunately, there is a provision in the Act, as James highlighted, that means that new affected parties can become new s274 submitters. Fortunately for us (but not for the airport and the court’s admin system), this means that every Wellingtonian living along the long traffic route proposed for transporting infill and rubble, for several years, every 2 minutes, night and day would now be eligible to add their name to the list of parties who want to be heard by the court.

Dr Sea and Counsel James Gardner-Hopkins in matching cowboy boots!

The airport’s counsel, immediately scoffed at the notion that many new s274 submitters would clog the court process up further (we say: Bring it ON!). It also said it would be “easy” to provide updates to ALL 25+ technical reports (by their authors or, actual technical experts) within 2 months of receiving consent from the Civil Aviation Authority Director General (DG). Seeing it took them many, many years to provide these, largely half-baked reports based on very limited data (because Cook Strait is just too tempestuous to enable easy data collection), and that they have not once actually provided any information, including the “monthly” updates required by court, on time, all this posturing sounded a lot like “fake news”.

It was really heartening to hear Judge Dwyer finally refer to the “Elephant in the Room” (climate change, what else?), which the airport in its infinite wisdom managed to ignore almost entirely in the whole 5000 pages of “technical evidence”. Seeing their counsel said that the economic evidence was probably the most important evidence for the process – despite it being no more than a cost-benefit analysis, largely decried by independent experts, and based on less science than voodoo or astrology – it bears noting (as the Judge did), that nowhere in their reports do they show any realistic impacts on costing for a project that, at their own admission, is likely not going to be built until 2030-35. Do they really think that international air traffic to Wellington will not be affected by global measures to combat runaway climate change? Yet nowhere in their costings or engineering models and reports did they account for the massive changes we can expect to happen over the coming decade.

In addition, our political leaders – even in our Council led by the “Big 8 ideas” Mayor Lester – certainly do not seem to have quite the same appetite to throw hundreds of millions (having so far already wasted around 13+ million dollars) of rate- and taxpayer dollars at a multi-national corporation which is already responsible for 25% of this hopeful “Low Carbon Capital’s” greenhouse gas emissions. We do not believe that the new Council, after next year’s elections in which this will surely become a topic of interest, will want to entangle the already hugely complex and contested Ngauranga to Airport transport corridor with the airport’s rubble trucks clogging up any improvements.  Indeed, the Council was conspicuous by its absence at the strike out hearing.

We believe the airport should have to re-apply for consent once the safety issue is finally addressed – and there is a good chance:

  1. the DG will need to undertake a rule change, which could take years;
  2. the DG will disagree with the airport that its short RESA is perfectly safe and move in line with international obligations and the Supreme Court decision; and
  3. even if he does agree with the airport, that there will be another judicial review (the last one took over 3 years and ended up with a loss in the Supreme Court for the airport).

Either way, the chances for them to get the unopposed go-ahead on a short RESA in May 2019 is close to nil.

It was really quite offensive for the airport’s counsel (and also the Judge, by contesting that the airport would simply “just apply again, in June right after the DG decision”) to dismiss the continued stress to our communities as “an exaggeration”. Yes, this Damocles Sword will hang over our heads until the airport and its surrounding access routes (and our homes) are under water, but there is a huge difference between being forced into years of court litigation vs just watching the airport’s latest chicaneries, closely. It is very costly to retain counsel, even if it is just to monitor the airport’s infrequent and insufficient reports (and sometimes we have to pay our counsel to try and get more information from the Ombudsman). It was very costly to find experts and get them to read the technical reports. It will be more costly to bring them up-to-scratch years later and ask them to comment on updated reports. There definitely is such a thing as litigation fatigue, and Judge Dwyer agreed with James on that. The longer a court process is dragged out, the more likely it is for the community to give up, to move away, to sell, or even die. And this seems to be what the airport wants – outlive us all by drowning the opposition in endless litigation.

In contrast a fresh application, if it has to happen, will provide a rejuvenated process, with all the publicity that comes with it, will mean new submitters and opponents will find out about the updated facts, we can look afresh at what has changed over the last 5+ years (socially, politically, economically, environmentally), we can start having transparent, public discussions about the need for such an extension, anew. Otherwise, all we get is a notice in the newspaper that new submitters can join the living dead, aka the stale court proceedings, which will have already dragged on for almost half a decade by then.

Enough is enough! We have played by the rules, paid a very heavy price and tried to do everything that is right to follow good process. The airport has never repaid us, or the court, with the remotest courtesy to do so as well. Their continued cries of victimhood (whilst denying the real victims as such) because it was all so “unforeseen” are a cruel joke. This entire debacle is 100% the airport’s fault: had they waited until the judicial review over the safety issues was completed, this court process would never yet have started.

We would have had 4 years of peace, not have had to waste tens of thousands of dollars on lawyers and experts, not having to use our precious spare time to pour over thousands of pages of (now outdated) technical data, squabble with politicians and be attacked and smeared in the media as NIMBYs and sell-outs… all of which at great personal costs. The only victims here are the South Coast community and its users, not the airport, and not the politicians who threw millions of ratepayer dollars at Infratil and Singapore Airlines, with nothing to show but a dying white elephant.

A little over week ago, a white Subaru got washed off the Moa Point breakwater by a ‘rogue’ wave. Some reports said the car’s occupants were fishing “at the popular fishing spot”, whilst eye (and social media) witnesses said that 3 people were actually inside the car when the wave struck them. They had to smash their way out through the windows and were lucky to get out of the wild ocean alive.

Photo: Mark Boucher, Stuff

This is not the first time a car was swept off that breakwater, and people have died there in the past, according to locals. An airport spokeswoman wrongly claimed that the metal safety barrier had “recently been damaged by the storm or vandalised”. Now, that ‘barrier’ has long been broken, and the breakwater safety sorely neglected by the airport. As with the entire southern end of the runway, the breakwater is an eyesore full of dangerous rocks, akmons and crevices and open to the pounding southerly waves. We can often watch giant waves break over the entire runway end and the breakwater, with holes spurting water several metres high.

Photo: Fritz Schöne
Photo: Fritz Schöne
Photo: Radio NZ
Photo: Radio NZ – this was from 2015 and you can see that the barrier arm going to the actual breakwater was already damaged

We also often watch people fishing off the breakwater, including taking their vehicles up there. Most fishermen aren’t foolhardy enough to do so in southerly swells but rubberneckers have frequently be seen running away or getting drenched in waves breaking over the runway and breakwater. It is an extremely dangerous area.

Photo taken during massive swell in June 2015 – clearly, no barrier was there to stop public access
Photo: Stuff

However, when it comes to finding the authority responsible for ensuring public safety, the plot thickens considerably. In a series of tweets between Dr Sea Rotmann, our Co-Chair and a Moa Point local, the @lyallbaynz account, Eastern Ward Councillor Chris Calvi-Freeman and Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC), we tried to uncover who ultimately was in charge – both, of removing the drowned vehicle which was visibly polluting Lyall Bay with debris (and most likely also toxic fluids like oil, petrol and air conditioning fluids etc.), and for taking responsibility for granting unsafe access to the area.

Greater Wellington was the only Council who responded to our inquiries (except for City Councillor Calvi-Freeman) and finally sent commercial divers to the scene to recover the vehicle (4 days later).

Both the Harbourmaster and the Police, which seemed to give mistaken (?) statements that nobody was in the vehicle at the time it was washed off, did not seem to be interested in recovering the vehicle, as it was “the owner’s responsibility”. We have to question this blasé attitude to quite serious pollution of one of our most used city beaches – the car was clearly a write-off so why would the owners go to considerable trouble and expense to get it recovered if no one forced them to? Debris was floating on the surface and washed up on Moa Point beach, around the corner. Surely, the waves could also easily carry it onto the surf break or Lyall Bay beach where it could be a hazard to the public. Would the Regional Council have finally sent someone if the community and Councillor Calvi-Freeman hadn’t been making inquiries?

Secondly, and more concerning seeing that people have died by being swept off that breakwater in the past, is the very disingenuous attitude by the airport erroneously claiming that the barrier was only recently destroyed (see photos from 2015, above) and that it was none of their problem “as the land was owned by someone else”. Reading their “urban design assessment” which forms part of their (halted) Environment Court resource application – halted, by the way because the airport thought it could get away with extending the runway without proper safety areas, which the Supreme Court just agreed with the Pilots’ Association was not sufficient – it becomes clear that the land is indeed owned by the Wellington City Council (WCC). What also becomes clear, however, is that the airport has built the breakwater and sea wall and been “maintaining” it by dumping rocks and akmons off it – without seemingly having a clear permit or resource consent to do so.

The Surfbreak Protection Society has pointed out in the past that this practice by the airport has severely degraded the quality of the “Corner” surf break in Lyall Bay. Their detailed research uncovered that, even though WCC is holding resource consents for work on the sea wall, it was not them but the airport who had been conducting the dumping of rocks in 2015 – without the Council’s clear knowledge. The surf community is in talks with the Council and Airport to have a vertical sea wall reinstated along the length of Moa Point Rd alongside the airport as it was back in the 50’s – 70’s, when the Corner was at its optimum performance. After GRWC directed SPS to have meeting with WIAL last September, Greg Thomas from WIAL noted that the continual dumping of rocks “may not be as cost-effective” as constructing a permanent vertical wall.

In addition, as part of the ‘mitigation’ for destroying one of our most beloved South Coast tāonga, a 3m cycle way and “promenade” is promised to be built by the airport, at the breakwater.

It is quite clear from looking at these imagined drawings, that none of the so-called “experts” the airport has paid with ratepayer dollars have bothered really visiting the area – especially in a Southerly. If they had, they’d have drawn the pedestrians and dogs being washed into the broiling sea and drenched by towering waves! With the benches and access to sea level from the rocks, there is absolutely no way this area can be cordoned off to the public in dangerous conditions. The Council has also recently announced that it was thinking of moving the Lyall Bay car park, near the surf break, as coastal inundation just made it too vulnerable to being repeatedly washed out.

Photo: Uli Beck from Spruce Goose
Photo: Radio NZ

Why does the Council let the airport play hazard with public safety and amenity to this extent, even paying them to do so (for example, by providing millions for the – now useless(?) – expert reports)? Why does it then not hold the airport responsible for any issues related to public health and safety and the clear reduction in amenity values, like the surf break? Who is actually in charge here and does someone else have to die before the authorities will finally do something about this mess?

by Lindsay Shelton, October 11, 2016. Link here.

A report from the Wellington City Council identifies a “worst case scenario” if only trucks are used to carry the rocks needed to build a longer runway at Wellington Airport.

The report, prepared by the council for the airport’s resource consent application, says that 252 people sent submissions that were concerned about traffic during the four year construction period, and 202 people were concerned about noise.

The council report states:

The Project has the potential to generate adverse noise effects given the scale of works proposed, the duration of the construction project, and the proposed night-time construction works. In addition, the Project proposes road haulage of fill during off-peak periods (9.30am-2.30pm, and 10pm-6.00am) during weekdays, which will generate traffic noise effects on properties along the haulage route.

The applicant has provided a Construction Noise Assessment … which assesses the noise effects associated with constructing the runway extension, and the land-based transportation of construction materials (including fill) to the site. The report also identifies measures to mitigate such noise.

A noise expert has reviewed the airport’s proposal and has found that

The Project includes a construction duration of 48 months (or greater), and due to airport operations, construction will be focused at night when construction activity is usually avoided near residential activities.

The nearby residential properties on Moa Point Road will be significantly affected by the proposed night time construction noise (with noise levels of up to 14dB over the night limit of 45dBLAEQ), and some properties on Kekerenga and Ahuriri Streets to a lesser extent will also besignificantly affected (ie, up to 8dB over the night limit of 45dBLAEQ). The noise effects will have the potential to result in sleep disturbance and associated health issues for the residents of the Moa Point Road properties,and sleep impairment for the residents of some properties on Kekerenga and Ahuriri Streets.

There are limited opportunities for mitigation at source, namely onsite construction noise mitigation measures, or mitigation measures on public land.

The applicant has assessed the night truck movements in terms of traffic noise, and has established a programme of reduced truck numbers to keep the increase in noise emissions at an acceptable level. This approach is supported and would ensure truck noise does not become significant for neighbouring residents to the haul route.

The applicants’ noise assessment does not address the effects of the outbound day haulage route along Lyall Parade and Onepu Road. This is less likely to have significant effects given it’s during the day, but this assessment should still be undertaken to provide a clear understanding of the overall traffic noise

[A consultant] has identified that mitigation measures targeted at a set number of properties (on Moa Point Road, Kekerenga and Ahuriri Streets) are essential, and without this, the noise effects on occupants of these properties will be potentially significant. [He] further recommends that these mitigation measures be included as consent conditions. These proposed mitigation measures, such as relocation and acoustic insulation of properties, rely on the co-operation and permission of the property owners or occupiers.

…While these mitigation measures may significantly improve the impact of construction noise on these parties, there is no obligation for the owners or occupiers to accept alterations to their houses or to temporary relocation during the construction period. In the event that such measures are not accepted by them, there will remain a significant noise effect on these parties.

… it ultimately will depend on whether the applicant can manage to obtain agreement from these people for either mitigation option. If this cannot be
obtained, then there remains a significant construction noise effect, which will be unacceptable.

The council report also assesses the effect of construction traffic:

The worst case scenario is assessed from a traffic perspective, that being that all fill will be sourced from Kiwi Point and Horokiwi Quarries and transported to the site via road haulage. Therefore, the Council’s construction traffic assessment has been 2709846_2 based on road transport of all fill within the parameters (i.e. truck numbers, haulage routes, operating times, etc) proposed by the applicant.

The haulage traffic is likely to have the most discernible level of traffic effects given the overall volume of heavy trucks on the roading network where land based transportation of fill material is adopted (up to 620 daily truck movements/60 trucks per hour). The applicant has acknowledged these effects, and has proposed haulage routes and variable truck movements (i.e. differing truck numbers at different times of the day and week) to address them.

The proposed haulage traffic travel times avoid commuter and school traffic peaks, and weekends, which is appropriate.
The route selection, being predominately the state highway network with day time use of Lyall Parade and Onepu Road, is appropriate.
 The use of high performance motor vehicles (HPMVs) is an appropriate choice of haulage vehicle i.e.it will minimise the total number of truck movements

Haulage via road is, from a traffic perspective, the worst case scenario. While the applicant has requested the worst case scenario be assessed as part of this application, this should be avoided if at all possible and should only be used if all other non-road based options are exhausted.

The report also states:

As already noted however in terms of noise, the proposed mitigation measures in the form of purchasing the affected properties, providing temporary re-housing during construction works, or providing acoustic insulation and mechanical ventilation rely on property owners or other occupants accepting these options.

Where this does not occur, the residents are exposed to some significant noise effects.

With respect to visual amenity, as outlined previously, the residents of Moa Point Road will experience the greatest level of visual amenity effects, which are unable to be mitigated. For the Moa Point residents it is unlikely that these objectives and policies will be met.

Read also:
Regional Council report identifies issues during runway construction

by Michael Gunson

Link here
Revelations have emerged that Wellington International Airport Ltd has been responsible for alterations to the Moa Point Road sea wall in Lyall Bay. Why has the airport been in charge of developing the sea wall, and not the Wellington City Council?

The incremental creep of the sea wall has had a negative impact on Wellington’s premier Lyall Bay Corner surf break. WIAL are also applying for consents to build a 3 meter wide promenade the length of Moa Point Rd, as well as seeking the Corner surf break’s deletion, from a GWRC schedule of regionally significant surf breaks.

Since the beginning, the airport company has reassured Wellington surfers that it is doing all it can to preserve our surf breaks in Lyall Bay, to mitigate future impacts and even improve it. As we stare down the barrel of their proposed runway extension, it is now becoming clear to Wellington’s surfing community that this is not the case.

The 346-page Assessment of Environmental Effects (AEE) only discusses mitigation, not active avoidance or a plan to remedy adverse effects on the Corner.

WIAL has submitted 28 documents to the Wellington City Council (WCC) and the Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) and nowhere do they mention that they will seek to avoid or remedy adverse effects from the airport extension on the Lyall Bay Corner surf break (the Corner).

According to computer modelling conducted on behalf of WIAL by DHI Ltd, the construction of the airport extension will have negative impacts on the Corner’s surfing wave quality, yet DHI are unable to predict what effects would occur from wave driven currents e.g. sweep (longshore) and rip (outgoing cross shore) currents. This remains a big unknown.

The placement of an artificial swell focus reef also poses challenges, by creating adverse effects on the Corner, by way of interrupting the currents in the bay. The final design and placement of the reef needs further modelling and onsite instrumentation to find a way to avoid these extra adverse effects on the Corner.

WIAL have given a promise to Wellington surfers through their Surf Mitigation Adaptive Management Plan that the final concept design of the Swell Focus reef (which is only for the mitigation of surf in the west and center of Lyall Bay) will be in such a position and distance from the Corner that the proposed reef will avoid adverse effects on the Corner surf break.

The extension will still have adverse effects on the Corner surf break.

airport surf 2

Wellington surfers have been confused by WIAL’s public relations that the Corner will be looked after. A final design concept for the reef has not yet been provided. Yet even with the remodelling of the Moa Point rock wall over the last 15 years, surfers have been complaining of the loss of the rip that runs up along the inside of the wall, beside the Corner surf break, and how that has affected the Corner’s legendary peak.

WIAL AEE p199 states:

“’Airport Rights’ is a surf break which is only utilised a few times a year during certain conditions by experienced surfers. The loss of this surfing amenity will therefore only affect a small group of expert surfers. The possible reduction of wave rides at ‘The Corner’ is likely to only be noticeable by the most seasoned and experienced surfers who have surfed ‘The Corner’ for many years.”

But the Wellington Boardriders Club’s (WBC) own scientific advice states that WIAL’s proposed baseline monitoring data of at least two months’ worth, for the proposed future detailed modelling for surf amenity impact assessment and for the concept design phase for the proposed submerged wave focussing structure by WIAL, is not adequate, nor is the level and frequency of monitoring going forward suitable to identify any adverse effects from the extension, or focus reef on the Corner.

As far as mitigation goes – the Draft Surf Mitigation Adaptive Management Plan should not be considered adequate to satisfy Wellington Board riders, it is certainly not adequate for the Surfbreak Protection Society (SPS).

Prom

Surbreak Protection Society’s (SPS) President Paul Shanks is warning surfers that any submission in support of the untested, unknown, focus reef is a submission endorsing WIAL’s degradation of the Corner.

On top of a lack of data to support WIAL’s PR that there will be only minor adverse effects on the Corner, WIAL’s AEE page 136 – 7.3.9 states:

“The only adverse assessed change in coastal physical processes that has been identified relates to the reduction in a combination of wave heights and period in parts of Lyall Bay, particularly in the north eastern area of Lyall Bay adjacent to the revetment”

That’s the Corner surf break.

WIAL failed to inform surfers during the collaborative consultation (prior to Consent lodgement) that WIAL plan to build a promenade along Moa Point Road, interfering with the Corner surf break, extending all the way down to Lyall Parade, and encompassing the existing Corner car park, opposite the Spruce Goose Café. When queried about the promenade, WIAL gave a short answer that “all improvement works from the breakwater to Lyall Parade will be undertaken on existing land.”

So what about the separate consents held by the Wellington City Council for the purpose of the maintenance and extension of the Moa Point sea wall?

Compounding the issues with the proposed runway extension is the fact that there has been continuous deposition of rock along the Moa Point Road sea wall pursuant to resource consents granted to the Wellington City Council. The council holds two non-notified consents to conduct works along the sea wall; surfers and the public never had the opportunity to comment on them. Surfers have spoken out about this for years.

The effects from this dumping on the Corner waves for surfing have been noticeable since the nineties, with the change to the shape and form of the sea wall. This has affected the Corner as rock is deposited on top of the sea wall and then bulldozed into the Corner’s swell corridor (“Swell corridor” means the region offshore of a surf break where ocean swell travels and transforms to a “surfable wave”). Wave energy is now absorbed by the sea wall reducing the reflection back to the focused take off point for the Corner surf break, impacting on the “insane peak” that the Corner is renowned for.

The latest batch of rocks have been placed on the wall, right next to Lyall Bay’s best wave, and it’s anyone’s guess when that will be pushed over the wall. The last earthworks activity on the Wall was in 2015.

Moa Point Rd rock wall activity in 2012.

Moa Point Rd rock wall activity in 2012.

 

montage 4

Last week SPS alerted GWRC to the degradation of the Corner due to the dumped rocks and, upon the insistence of SPS, GWRC sought answers from the city council – SPS were shocked to discover that it appears as though it is not WCC degrading the Corner surf break, but rather WIAL has been undertaking these works. Whilst WCC holds consents that relate to the area in the corner of Lyall Bay Parade and Moa Point Road, WIAL does not hold consents to deposit material over the sea wall at the Corner surf break. SPS are seeking records of works undertaken under these consents, and whether there is any contract between WCC and WIAL for the airport company to exercise these consents on WCC’s behalf.

While these consents are legal, it is unfortunate that WIAL seem to be exercising these consents to potentially reclaim more of the seabed and foreshore at the expense of the Corner surf break, while their proposed promenade is to be built on “existing land”. Separate to the consents held by the city council.

Airport spokesperson John Kyle has given an assurance that no rock material will be pushed over the wall within the next 12 months, but there are questions that remain unanswered:

Who is in charge of managing the Moa Point Road sea wall after the new extension consents are issued?

Consent No. WGN010112 [20920] issued in 2001 gives the consent holder the right to extend the Western Sea Wall on Moa Point Road until 29 January 2036, and absolute authority to reclaim more of the Coastal Marine Area, to the detriment of the Corner surf break. What are WIAL’s plans for further reclamation by way of this consent?

Will the runway consents now being applied for give WIAL the right to continue degrading the Corner surf break in the name of securing the Moa Point Road access route to the airport?

The airport’s consent planner John Kyle has indicated that the city council sea wall consents are being exercised by the airport company. Is there is a conflict of interest here, with WIAL in charge of these sea wall reclamations that continue to degrade the Corner surf break, while at the same time, WIAL continue to pursue the deletion of the Corner surf break from the GWRC Proposed Natural Resources Plan.

GWRC have advised that if anyone witnesses any further works on the Moa Point Road sea wall, they should contact the GWRC environmental response team on 0800 496 734.

Returning to the application by WIAL to extend the runway, SPS believe that it is inadequate for WIAL to only propose mitigating adverse effects under amenity values and that this is an inappropriate response level for the impacts this project will deliver to Lyall Bay’s surf breaks. The application should be thrown out of court on this basis alone.

Under this paradigm, WIAL appear to be trading adverse effects on the Corner surf break simply by building an amenity feature, a promenade and the promise of an unproven technology in natural environments, a submerged swell focus structure. Perhaps this is why WIAL are ignoring the extension consent application’s compliance obligations in the context of the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement’s surf break protection policies.

WIAL are seeking to have Lyall Bay surf breaks recognised under policies that only refer to amenity values that have less strength than surf break policies under the NZCPS.

While Lyall Bay could lose its Corner surf break, at least the surfers will have a lovely promenade to cycle, or walk their dog.

Time is running out. The runway extension is a massive risk to the enjoyment of Lyall Bay for surfers from Wellington, New Zealand and the rest of the world. Any Kiwis who identify themselves as being a surfer, should be writing a submission opposed to WIAL’s runway extension. Here is an easy way to do it online:
http://www.actionstation.org.nz/wellington_airport_extension

If you want to have your say on this, put in your submission by 12 August. Please clarify that you want to be heard in Court. The Surfbreak Protection Society is grateful for the opportunity to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Guardians of the Bays in opposing the runway extension outright.

Michael Gunson, Research Officer at Surfbreak Protection Society, is a long-time Wellington surfer

info@surfbreak.org.nz

Opposition to the proposed runway extension is growing if attendance at the recent Guardians of the Bays information evening is anything to go by. A diverse range of groups, from business, community, recreational and environmental organisations are asking questions to peel away the public relations spin around the ill-conceived, expensive airport extension proposal.

Groups as diverse as Forest & Bird; various Residents’ Associations; Wellington businesses; Save the Basin; the Surfbreak Protection Society; Hue te Taka Society; OraTaiao: The NZ Climate & Health Council; the Wellington Underwater Club; 350.org and the Green Party, to name a few, were represented at last week’s meeting. It quickly became clear that everyone present was deeply concerned at the spin being put out by the airport company, and the potential cost it will have to ratepayers and taxpayers, and of course to the beautiful Wellington south coast.

The meeting was MCed by Bishop Richard Randerson, who has national standing for his work in faith-based and place-based communities. He made it clear that an airport extension does not make Wellington more progressive, particularly when the ratepayers and taxpayers are being asked to subsidise one of New Zealand’s wealthiest companies.

Dr Sea Rotmann, co-Chair of the Guardians of The Bays, outlined the group’s main areas of opposition in her presentation [gview file=”https://guardiansofthebays341400583.files.wordpress.com/2021/06/b54e9-gotb-info-evening-presentation.pdf”%5D where she blew away a few airport myths like:

  • There will be little impact on marine ecology – but their ‘experts’ didn’t even know that Moa Point was a breeding habitat for the critically-endangered reef heron, nor do they know what the infill material will contain.
  • There will be little impact on recreational activities – but they haven’t really done a great job at collecting the data to support this statement. Council officers have not yet referred the application to the Environment Court because there were so many inconsistencies and information gaps resulting in 46 questions and a further resource consent needed.
  • The extension will result in fewer greenhouse gas emissions – yeah right, especially seeing it is meant to increase long-haul passenger numbers by 16.1 million versus business as usual!
  • The extension will withstand rising sea levels and 8m waves – yet all you need to do is visit Lyall Bay in winter and you’ll see 10m+ waves on a regular basis, not to mention the issues around sea level rise and storm surges affecting all access roads to the airport.
  • Trust the airport and their ‘experts’, they know what they’re doing – this from an organisation that wasn’t even able to collect a full set of data because of the bad weather in Cook Strait, who have little idea what the infill material will be (but it may be contaminated dredge spoil from CentrePort), who wanted to hide construction noise under BAU aircraft activities, who didn’t know they needed a resource consent for stormwater discharge and who have commissioned 4 economic reports claiming bigger and bigger benefits, despite their methodology continually being savaged by an army of independent economists…

Tim Jones, who brings to the group valuable experience from the campaign against a proposed Basin Reserve flyover, ran over a few traffic facts – did you know that if the project goes ahead, 1.5 million m3 of fill will be transported from Horokiwi and Kiwi Point quarries by truck through central Wellington, along SH1 through both tunnels to the airport, often every 2 minutes and all during the night? And that the revised route through Vivian Street, Karo Drive, Wellington Road, Lyall Parade, Onepu Road, Rongotai Road, Evans Bay Parade may actually pose serious safety hazards?

Rob le Petit from the Surfbreak Protection Society reiterated the support of the surfing fraternity who love their surf and whose members include leading experts in planning, oceanography and the environment. Did you know that Lyall Bay is one of the birthplaces of NZ surfing, yet the airport are proving particularly sneaky by trying to make deals with the surfers promising them an untested ‘wave focusing device’ while on the other hand the airport is aggressively attacking the legal obligations that protect the Lyall Bay surf?

Keith Johnson is standing for Mayor because he is sickened by the lack of commitment by the current crop of would-be Mayoral contenders to fairness, accountability, economics and good governance. He is especially appalled by Wellington City Council’s championing of the runway extension. Dr Johnson is a transport economist and told the meeting that the cost-benefit-analysis ratio the airport has conjured up of 1.7 (now 2.3!) is nonsense and should more realistically be less than 1.

What’s more, not only do we not know how much it’s really going to cost, the benefits the airport wizards have created keep going up, up, up – like the length of the extension (or Pinocchio’s nose!) which has grown from 300m to 363m – yet the costs, we’re told, remain the same! We should be afraid, very afraid, about putting our trust into a project of this magnitude which carries so many uncertainties and risks.

Infratil lier plane

Wellington City Councillor and former airport planner David Lee asked who is going to fund this Great Big White Elephant? The Government’s said NO, the other Councils in the region have said MAYBE to the tune of $60m, with Wellington City Council earmarking $90m (in addition to the $3m they already paid up front). As David said – this level of corporate welfare STINKS. The big winner is the airport who is only contributing about $50m! And this still leaves a $100-150 million shortfall which Mayoral candidate Justin Lester is on record as saying that if the government doesn’t step in ratepayers, or investors – whoever they might be – will have to pay.

These are some of the many, many reasons why this airport runway extension is simply madness, and why so many diverse groups will fight it to the end. But the biggest killer of the project, seeing this is the whole reason why the Council is pushing this so much, was delivered by John Beckett, the Executive Director of the Board of Airline Representatives (BARNZ). BARNZ represents all 24 airlines that are flying into New Zealand, including the five that fly into Wellington.

John made it very clear that no long-haul airlines flying to New Zealand support this project, and the reason is simple economics: the aviation sector is extremely competitive with high costs and thin margins. Long-haul aircraft need high load factors in order to operate a route profitably. It is unlikely that any airline in Asia or North America would fly non-stop long haul into Wellington because the market is too small. Their first choice would be Auckland, and then Christchurch, on the grounds of population and proximity to tourism highlights. Wellington comes a distant third. As John pointed out, the route projections and cost-benefit analysis provided by the airport’s economists are overly optimistic, and BARNZ’s economic experts, NZIER, will be on hand to dismantle the airport’s arguments in court. Without additional flights attracted by the extension, it is also likely that airport charges will rise on all other routes into Wellington in order to cover the costs and profits.

To summarise why we need to keep asking questions about the proposed runway extension:

  • There is no proven demand for it and no long-haul airlines will come here and stay the course.
  • The real cost is not known and likely to be much more than the current forecast of $300 million.
  • The benefits are unreal and over-inflated – simply conjured up by the Airport wizards…
  • Only Wellington City Council has made a commitment to fund some of the extension, leaving a huge funding shortfall.
  • Wellington City ratepayers will pay for this folly disproportionately – in terms of inter-generational debt; cost overruns; interest charges; environmental, health and recreational impacts; ensuing traffic chaos; and cost increases for every passenger and anyone using the airport, for example when parking a car.
  • Wellington Airport is in a highly risky location, both in terms of safety and impacts from climate change such as rising sea levels and other environmental catastrophes, which are already endangering access.
  • It will destroy so much of what people most love about Wellington: the Lyall Bay surf, the rugged south coast, the little blue penguin and reef heron nesting habitats, fishing, diving and the collection of kai moana, not to mention the joy it brings to everyone when we get orca visitors
  • Climate change (which threatens our economy, health & well-being) and the global agreement to move towards zero net climate-damaging emissions have been completely ignored in the airport’s cost-benefit ‘analysis’.
  • The cost-benefit analysis, when done properly, shows an actual return of investment of less than 1. That means that this is a financial loser where we are set to gain less than a dollar for every dollar spent!
  • It represents economic incompetence on the part of our politicians whose lazy thinking sees the runway extension as the answer to all our economic woes – when they are the last people we should rely on to ‘pick winners’. Justin Lester even used the Chair of Infratil, the majority shareholder of the airport and a multi-national company, in his election video. And when he got asked about this on his facebook site, he swiftly deleted the questions!
  • It provides a corporate handout to a large, very wealthy company with a billion dollars to spend which it is choosing not to invest in Wellington’s runway extension. Infratil is laughing all the way to the bank because it thinks it is getting away with taking your rates for their airport, which will end up being poured down Cook Strait.
  • This is nothing but the badly thought-out vanity project of some politicians who want to ‘leave their legacy’ by building a Great Big White Elephant on our South Coast.

We have developed a handy submission guide that can be used by every person and group wanting to join us in the Environment Court to fight this environmentally damaging case and colossal waste of ratepayers money.

If you want to join us, please subscribe to the Guardians of the Bays and help us ensure that Wellington does progress – but in the smartest, most sustainable and positive ways, not with out-dated ‘think big’ projects and corporate welfare.

 

After a recent Dom Post article that asserted that the Wellington Airport is ‘gifting’ Moa Point residents $10,000 out of the goodness of their heart, some ugly attacks were made (including in the key letter featured in the Dom Post on October 8). I’d like to set the record straight about what it means to be a Moa Pointer and live in the smallest suburb in Wellington.

We are neither NIMBYs nor whingers, and yes, we knew the airport and sewerage plant were there when we bought our houses (kinda hard to miss!). But we are a special lot, because we live in this special place and call it our home, our tūrangawaewae, and we are its guardians and fiercely protective of it.

Moa Point is a heritage suburb, it consists of a very special reservation – the Hue te Taka peninsula – and a street of 21 residences. We’ve been around for a very long time, almost as long as Wellington exists. Around the corner, in Tarakena Bay, are three of the oldest pa sites in Wellington. Until the early 90s, raw sewage was pumped out straight into this beautiful bay – giving it the ugly moniker ‘Poo Point’.

We are a hardy lot, we have to be, living in this environment. We have the sewerage plant with its special ‘aroma’ wafting around during certain winds and we have the airport, with its noise and its bully tactics, like removing our easy access route to Miramar and threatening to destroy our bay and homes for what seems to be no more than short-sighted greed. And we bear the brunt of Wellington’s infamous winds, both Northerlies and Southerlies, staring straight down the barrel when a Southerly blast or surge comes at us from Antarctica.

But we also boast the best sunset spot in town, with a straight view to the snowy Kaikouras over the turquoise Cook Strait. We harbour a tiny gravel beach, with wonderful snorkelling, fishing and kayaking spots, which is never over-run in summer. We showcase a huge abundance of wildflowers, including 69 indigenous and 33 naturalised plant species. We have one of the few Little Blue Penguin nesting sites in Wellington and can hear them call during calm, cold nights. We regularly have seals, purpoises, dolphins and the occasional Orca and Southern Right Whale come to visit. We even have a species of algae that can only be found at Moa Point, and in Otago Harbour. And we have a giant kelp forest harbouring a huge abundance of species – by the way, the same species that made the Taputeranga Marine Reserve special enough to be declared a reserve.

A Moa Point sunset
A Moa Point sunset

This is a special place, Wellington’s taonga and an integral part of the South Coast and Lyall Bay. Living here means being connected to nature and your environment, you get to know the wind, the tides, the sun- and moon-sets and -rises and the changing of the seasons intimately. This is so very special when living less than 20 minutes from a Capital City. We are good neighbours, many of us close friends but also leaving each other be, always supporting each other when needed. We seem to have a disproportionate abundance of scientists, lawyers, business owners, government officials, both working and retired, and greenies in this suburb. The people who live here, its guardians, have usually lived here for a very long time. When we went around the table during a neighbours’ meeting, we found that we lived here for an average of 17 years, with the longest resident being here for over 33 years. Compare that with the 83% of the private rental market that have a tenure of 4 years or less. We’re here to stay.

Unless the airport of course destroys this special suburb with its extension plans. Not only will it ruin this magical spot, its penguin habitat and our little bay, it will also impact along the wider South Coast, the Lyall Bay surf break, the marine reserve, the sewerage operations and cause transport bottlenecks, both during construction and operation. Just think that there will be 60 trucks an hour for 36 months minimum going through all of Wellington with clean fill! And all this for – if we’re lucky, as no airline said they want to fly here long-haul – only one extra flight a day with an extra 110 visitors coming in. The airport says this will bring $140m to Wellington each year (extrapolating wildly, as usual) – not mentioning that it costs $160m a year just to maintain the extra planes!

It’s not just us residents who are questioning the dubious business case of this extension, the airport itself says it’s not economical, the National Government is certainly skeptical, and even the Chamber of Commerce and other business groups are starting to call for a business case and certain long-haul airline commitment first before committing any more of their rate- and taxpayer monies to this project.

It is important to note that the assertion by the airport in the Dom Post that it will release a business case in two weeks, is disingenuous. They will release a cost-benefit analysis, which is a small sub-part of a proper business case (under Treasury’s Better Business Case Framework) and the impact studies the ratepayers paid for for the resource consent. These have very little to do with a proper business case. It is also important to note that not going through the fast-tracked board of inquiry process is an admission that they know they would fail. Going through the more protracted Environment Court hearings has nothing to do with a ‘more open and transparent process’ and everything with buying themselves time and bleeding the opponents dry due to the high costs associated with fighting a project like this through the Court. It also means many more years of this existential threat hanging over our heads, which is stressful in many ways – emotionally, financially and physically.

The airport has never been a good neighbour, not to us and not to the other 700+ houses affected in its ‘Noise Precinct’. The city and eastern suburbs had numerous stoushes with it, over the death of Bridge Street, the outrage over the dumb ‘Wellywood’ sign, the loss of public access to Stuart Duff Drive etc. A runway extension has been opposed to as long as the airport has existed. They have recently, after much public pressure, done better in their consultation of ‘affected’ groups (which seems to largely amount to bribing them, including us, although we did get access to the confidential draft reports for the resource consent early, for which we are grateful).

On the one hand, you could say we are lucky having an airport so central to the city. On the other hand, you have to question the sanity of the developers who used prime South Coast land to plonk a noisy, emission-spewing airport that cannot expand, unless it fills in all of Lyall or large parts of Evans Bay for its freight operations; that is buying up low-decile schools and neighbourhoods to turn into corporate wastelands; that sits on a fault line and in a tsunami path; and is highly threatened by rising sea levels and increased Cook Strait storms (including on all its very narrow access roads). Think about how special this part of the coast could be without an airport and how much more secure an airport would be that is situated on more stable and resilient land further north. It’s certainly our dream, but isn’t it time we all start talking about other, smarter, more resilient options as a City?

We need to state upfront that we do appreciate that the Wellington International Airport Limited (WIAL) is a corporation, one run by its majority shareholder Infratil, and as such has specific mandates to fulfil for its shareholders. Corporate law dictates corporate purpose – which is to make money for its shareholders. It basically says that the people who run corporations (i.e. the Board of Directors) have a legal duty to shareholders, and that duty is to make money. That is of course a problem when one of the Directors is the Mayor of the City who declares a ‘conflict of interest’ when asked to meet with severely affected residents – as her primary legal duty is now to the airport, not the city’s residents anymore, it seems.

When you are dealing with a corporation whose primary motive and mandate is to make money at all cost, which is 1/3 owned by the City of Wellington and has its Mayor as a Director, you find yourself in a bit of a conundrum as a lowly citizen-led initiative. There is the obvious issue that they have a massive pool of resources to draw from which is exacerbated by the City gifting them millions of dollars of our money (50% of the resource consent money is paid by the City, even though its shareholding is only 33%). We do not have the PR machine, self-serving research organisations that will say exactly what the airport wants without doing any actual proper analysis, and definitely not the access to lawyers that the airport has (they plan to use another $2,500,000 to get resource consent). This is why the airport wants to push this runway extension proposal through a fast-track process with the EPA, rather than going through a protracted resource consent process or the Environment Court (but remember what the Save the Basin campaign managed to do against all odds!). This is why they are pushing for getting a resource consent without providing a business case first. They know that a proper, independently reviewed business case that meets the Treasury’s Better Business Case Framework will never stack up. Should the City spend millions of dollars on a resource consent application, if all the necessary work on a business case that withstands independent review hasn’t been undertaken first?

We are also concerned when various media reports are one-sided and lazily repeat airport claims without thorough fact checking. Some examples:

  • WIAL have claimed that at least 80% of Wellington’s 3000-odd strong business community (the ones that are members of the Chamber of Commerce) support the runway extension and sees it as the top priority to stimulate economic growth. If you actually look at the surveys quoted by them, you can see that the number is closer to just over 1%! That is a big spin getting from 36 businesses¹, 47 businesses² and 50 businesses³ that mentioned the airport extension to saying that at least 2400 businesses support it. Especially when you take into account that there are actually almost 26,000 businesses in Wellington. When you look at the whole business sector we go from “At least 80% of Wellington’s businesses say they need this” to more like ‘Less than 0.002% of Wellington’s businesses actually bothered to name the runway extension as important to their business’.
CSNielsen survey airport
2013 and 2014 Nielsen survey for WCC
From Infratil's September 2014 newsletter
Chamber of Commerce survey
  • WIAL is listening to its critics, it seems, as they have been releasing information as part of surveys to a select few trying to discredit them and have finally provided their first progress update to the Council (two years after having signed a contract with WCC specifying 3-monthly progress updates). Sometimes, their dispelling of ‘myths’ such as the one ‘created’ by Air NZ’s CEO on Radio New Zealand, has rather hilarious unintended consequences:
From WIAL presentation to WCC
From WIAL presentation to WCC
  • And sometimes, WIAL is outright mischievous, for example when it stalled a Dom Post article on their long-standing, serious lack of consultation with affected residents for weeks in order to wait until after a board meeting that signed off a compensation package (something they initially claimed to have never even considered) so they could dispute the article’s main points. The affected residents are really concerned about WIAL portraying itself as ‘working closely with Moa Point Rd residents’, and even saying “We’ve made a huge effort to have these meetings and to make sure that dialogue goes both ways.” The residents dispute this – they have been asking for meetings, not the other way around and when they met it wasn’t in the spirit of neighbourly partnership. Instead, WIAL merely informed the residents about the work they had undertaken so far and that the extension was practically ‘a done deal’. So, instead of real engagement it was just corporate PR. Next thing the residents heard (instead of the meeting minutes and copy of the presentation that were promised and asked for) was that there would be a ‘compensation package’.

There are many examples where the airport simply has the upper hand pushing its one-sided spin and this dubious extension proposal way further than it ever should have gone. The runway extension proposal has been studied, several times, in detail over the last 4 decades and was always discarded as too difficult/expensive/unnecessary. The airport itself does not want to pay for it as it admits it isn’t economic, yet it does what it can to fulfil its legal mandate to its shareholders which is to get the public to pay for this proposal which will increase their asset base and enable them to charge more (and sell the airport when it’s finished?). As the New Zealand Airline Pilot’s Association’s (NZALPA) – who are currently suing the airport for safety concerns in the High Court – technical director David Reynolds so aptly says:

The airport essentially is building the runway to make more money.

In summary, we are very unhappy about our Council gifting the airport our money to undertake what has so far been a one-sided, economic impact statement which credible commentators have raised serious concerns about (and which cost $75,000). We need the Council to insist on WIAL completing a comprehensive, robust business case including a credible cost-benefit analysis first. We want to know why Councillors are attacking critics in the media rather than assessing the legitimate questions they raise and why are they insisting that the ‘numbers are sound’ when they clearly aren’t? Why do we have a Mayor on the Board of Directors who has no problem going to residents’ meetings expounding the dubious benefits of this proposal but refuses to meet with her affected residents who are seeking to be properly involved in the process, citing a ‘conflict of interest’?

In the end, the natural result is that corporate bottom line goes up, and the state of the public good goes down. This is called privatizing the gain and externalizing the cost.

This system design helps explain why the war against corporate abuse is being lost, despite decades of effort by thousands of organizations. Until now, tactics used to confront corporations have focused on where and how much companies should be allowed to damage the public interest, rather than eliminating the reason they do it. When public interest groups protest a new power plant, mercury poisoning, or a new box store [or runway extension], the groups don’t examine the corporations’ motives. They only seek to limit where damage is created (not in our back yard) and how much damage is created (a little less, please)Robert C Hinkley, former corporate securities attorney

It does feel a lot like David vs Goliath, or even more aptly: Daryl Kerrigan from the Australian film the Castle, trying to keep the airport and especially the Council honest. It is worth reminding ourselves that at least the Council’s mandate must continue to lie in protecting its ratepayers, citizens and special places, not in ensuring that a major corporate makes more money at all cost. We are going to continue to do this, and hope to engage as many residents as possible in this uneven fight. Please contact us at guardiansofthebays@gmail.com and subscribe to this blog.

  1. Chamber of Commerce survey shown in Infratil Sept 2014 newsletter
  2. 2013 Nielsen survey
  3. 2014 Nielsen survey


 

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.

TxHcYmzjL9cq8zNd9S0peq2Egi3EVVdOvHfrrIMkaZA

Moa Point road flooding at the weekend. Twitter photo from Lyall Bay/Blaize Larsen-Beecroft

Wellington.Scoop
Wellington Airport warned this morning that the Moa Point road was closed again because of big swells. It had been reopened for less than 24 hours after similar problems over the weekend.

Wellington.Scoop – June 15
Wellington Airport advised that the Moa Point road was still closed this morning because of large swells. The city council issued a similar warning, saying clean-up efforts as well as big waves were responsible for the continuing closure, which left only one route to the airport.

The road was reopened at 4pm today after being closed since 2pm on Sunday.

The NZ Herald this morning reports on the huge waves which hit Wellington’s south coast yesterday.

It says part of the road at Owhiro Bay was closed by the waves. And it reports that big swells are also expected today.

Ian Apperley: Council has its head in the sand about sea surges