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?

Originally posted on Scoop

Press Release – Public Service Association

Wellington Airport managers must front up to serious questions over its response to Monday mornings earthquake – and how it communicated with other agencies, the PSA says.Wellington Airport workers kept “in the dark” during quake aftermath
Wellington Airport managers must front up to serious questions over its response to Monday morning’s earthquake – and how it communicated with other agencies, the PSA says.

PSA National Secretary Glenn Barclay says around a dozen staff from the Ministry of Primary Industries plus additional Customs and other workers were at the airport when the quake hit.

“We have spoken to our members at Wellington airport and they are gravely concerned at what happened on Monday,” Mr Barclay says.

“Our members have told us they are not well briefed on emergency procedures or evacuation plans.

“This is a serious concern, especially considering Wellington Airport sits just 2 kilometres from a fault line.”

Virgin’s flight VA108 from Brisbane landed 20 minutes after the first quake and MPI and Customs staff processed passengers and cargo with little information about their own safety.

Mr Barclay says MPI staff stayed on duty after the tsunami warning was issued, and another shift was required to be back on duty to process flights arriving shortly after 6am, while it was still in place.

“Our members felt like they were expected to just get on with their jobs, but were totally in the dark about the risks they were facing – and the emergency procedures.

“This is simply not good enough.

“There may have been a good rationale for allowing the plane to land and requiring staff to stay – but this was not transmitted to front-line staff.

“Our members deserve to feel safe at work – but more importantly, the thousands of passengers who travel through Wellington Airport every day need to know they are safe too.

“We urgently call for a review of how emergency information is transmitted to workers at Wellington Airport and to the public.”


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Originally published on Scoop.

News from Hue tē Taka
Hue tē Taka Incorporated Society which represents the most directly and severely affected residents from Moa Point, who are Wellington Airport’s neighbours, has today announced it will be opposing the Airport’s application for resource consent to extend the runway in the Environment Court next year.

Karl Weber of Hue tē Taka said that they are urging other community groups, local businesses and individuals to do the same.

“We have filed our form under section 274 stating that we would like to appear in the Environment Court and speak to the submission we made on the application in August.

“Despite almost 70% of submissions made on the application being in opposition, the local community are not getting any support from local government. So, it is important that everyone who wants to appear in Court to oppose the application also files an s274 form before the deadline on Friday.

“Sadly it falls to the community to put pressure on the Airport over the many concerns we have about the proposed runway extension. We hope that many people feel they would like to follow us in putting our own resources into the Environment Court process.”

The deadline for filing an s274 form is Friday.

“The economic impact that this project will have on the city in undeniable.

“The Greater Wellington Regional Council’s economic impact expert estimated the cost of the extension would be $428m but likely to rise to almost $500m, compared to the Airport’s estimation of $300m and the Airport has not produced a robust business case to prove the benefits”, said Mr Weber.

“In addition to this and the significant environmental impact of our beautiful bay, the Directly Affected Residents of Moa Point are specifically concerned about the impact of construction noise, dust and vibration on their daily lives.

“The Regional Council’s report said that construction and operational noise will result in sleep disturbance and associated health issues for the residents of Moa Point Road properties to a level that is ‘significant’ and ‘unacceptable’.

Residents are being given the choice of relocation or major insulation works as the only mitigation. For the majority of us this is simply not an option.

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

Original article

Wellington’s parking and transport are bigger challenges to Wellington businesses than lack of international capacity via Wellington International Airport, according to the Wellington City Council’s 2016 Survey of Wellington Businesses.

Richard Randerson, co-chair of broad-based residents’ group Guardians of the Bays, says the survey is further evidence that Wellington Airport’s proposed runway extension is not the silver bullet Wellingtonians have been promised.

“The Airport and the City Council have been promising ratepayers that long-haul flights into Wellington will create more business opportunities for local companies, but this survey shows that businesses are wise to the real issues – and accessibility within the city is a much bigger concern.

“The survey also shows that over 90 percent of business do not feel disadvantaged by a lack of business opportunities or the size of the local market.”

Mr Randerson added that the City Council had been quick to give the Airport Company $3million of ratepayer money last year to help scope its resource consent application even though their own 2014 research showed just 10 percent of local businesses thought more international flights into the capital would provide advantages.

“We are now looking to the next generation Council and we are seeing the majority of mayoral candidates ignoring the red flags and maintaining that the return on a $90 million investment in the runway extension will be beneficial for the city.

“This report shows businesses don’t feel the need for it; 525 of 776 public submissions opposed the Airport’s resource consent application last month and Infratil, the Airport’s majority shareholder, isn’t prepared to put forward funds in line with its shareholding. These are warning signs that the business case will not be robust and they are being ignored.”

The report also shows the costs of being a Wellington business are forcing some companies to consider relocating or closing down.

“Wellington businesses already pay 46 percent of rates despite only occupying 21 percent of rentable property.[1] A number of the mayoral candidates are building their campaigns on the promises of costly white-elephant projects, like the runway extension, and not properly addressing the follow-on impact on rates for businesses and residents.”

City Council’s “on track” spin on survey

Original article on

By Pattrick Smellie

Aug. 15 (BusinessDesk) – Wellington’s airport runway extension initiative fails on the grounds that lower North Island and South Island travellers are already flying to long-haul destinations through Auckland or Christchurch and the region is not a magnet for tourists, who are more likely to favour Auckland and Queenstown as an arrival point.

That’s the conclusion of a study commissioned by the lobby group for international airlines, including Air New Zealand, lodged in opposition to Wellington International Airport’s application for a resource consent to lengthen the capital city’s runway by 350 metres.

The new study, by Australian-based Ailevon Pacific Aviation Consultants for the Board of Airline Representatives in New Zealand, said the likelihood of airlines establishing new long-haul services to the capital is “extremely remote, implausible at best”.

It contests the findings of a study by rival aviation industry consultants, InterVistas, which APAC said has over-estimated demand for long-haul services to and from Wellington, which it said has not benefitted from the boom in international tourism that has boosted arrivals, particularly to Auckland and Queenstown, in recent years.

“Visitor demand growth from long-haul markets to Wellington has lagged not only the New Zealand average but also other airports in New Zealand without long haul international services,” said the APAC report.

Using Australian Bureau of Statistics and International Air Travel Association (IATA) data, APAC concluded that Wellington’s strongest growth has been in short-haul traffic between the capital and Australian cities and the Pacific Islands, where most of the growth in new routes to Welllington has been in recent years.

“Presently, Wellington has no markets with sufficient origin-destination demand beyond New Zealand, Australia or the Pacific Islands that could support non-stop services with adequate frequency.”

The report makes almost no mention of improved export freight-forwarding opportunities that might arise from a longer runway – the main benefit cited by Wellington Chamber of Commerce head John Milford, who called for support from local businesses ahead of last Friday’s deadline for submissions to the Wellington Regional Council on WIAL’s application for a resource consent to undertake the $350 million project.

WIAL is seeking to make Wellington an alternative long-haul destination to Auckland, the country’s dominant airline gateway, the existing second gateway Christchurch, and Queenstown, which is increasingly connected by direct flights from Australia.

WIAL is owned 66 percent by Infratil, the NZX-listed infrastructure company, and 33 percent by Wellington City Council. It is seeking the majority of the runway extension cost from central government and Wellington ratepayers, arguing the benefits would accrue more to the country and the region rather than the airport owner, which cannot justify the expansion on purely commercial grounds.

APAC disclosed in its submission that it has undertaken work for key opponents of the Wellington plan, Air New Zealand, Auckland International Airport, and Queenstown airport, in which AIA has a shareholding, but says its analysis is independent.

“The simple fact is that Wellington International Airport’s catchment region is too small and too slow-growing to warrant non-stop long-haul services,” said APAC, which makes serious accusations about the quality of the InterVistas analysis undertaken for WIAL.

“InterVistas .. have either failed to accurately reflect the nature of demand at Wellington International Airport when benchmarked against neutral and industry-accepted data sources, including data sources InterVistas purports to rely on, or appear to have reinterpreted the data to support a case for long-haul demand,” the APAC report said.

In a submission on the runway extension application, the New Zealand Air Line Pilots Association said there was increased risk of a serious accident or incident, especially from larger planes using Wellington Airport, unless an adequate Runway End Safety Area (RESA) of 240 metres or a recognised equivalent solution is used.

NZALPA president Tim Robinson said despite his members having the most to gain from the runway extension, they were opposed to it unless it included the RESA. He suggested an alternative though known as Engineered Material Arresting System in use globally, which is a crushable material installed on an existing RESA to declerate an aircraft in an emergency.

Earlier this month, the association filed an appeal against the High Court’s decision to turn down a review of the runaway’s 90-metre safety area.


Link to Radio NZ article here

Thanks to the Pilots Association for caring about the travelling public’s safety – because Wellington International Airport Ltd (WIAL) seem to be happy with ‘making do’. The Association’s President Tim Robinson said in their submission on the runway extension that his members had the most to gain from the extension but was opposed to it unless it included a Runway End Safety Area (RESA) of 240 metres.  

This is the minimum expected by the International Civil Aviation Organisation and New Zealand’s own Civil Aviation Authority – organisations that presumably know a thing or two about airport safety. What’s more, they don’t have a vested interest in the airport, unlike WIAL who stands to gain A LOT from increased landing charges that will be passed on to all of us, the travelling public.

As international aviation safety expert, Brian Greeves has said when acknowledging the cost of installing a 240 metre RESA, “the financial losses if just one Boeing 777 or Airbus 330 aircraft were to overrun the runway and 90 metre RESA with substantial fatalities, would more than outweigh the construction cost, without taking into account the human cost”.  On top of this, New Zealand’s international safety reputation would be in ruins.

Flight attendants also have come out in support of the pilots. Kalvin Ellis, head of union E Tū, said “if the pilots are concerned we need to take it seriously; and we’re not just talking a few metres – it is 150 metres short of what the Pilots have recommended”.  

So, WIAL – who don’t fly planes – apparently know better than the experts, the pilots who actually fly the planes. I know who I would trust, do you?