By Sophie Boot

March 19 (BusinessDesk) – Wellington International Airport has asked to put its runway extension resource consent application on hold for nine months, as it plans to re-ask the Civil Aviation Authority for permission for its plan.

The airport, which is two-thirds owned by NZX-listed infrastructure investment company Infratil and 33 percent by Wellington City Council, is seeking the majority of the estimated $330 million runway extension cost from central government and Wellington ratepayers. The 355-metre runway extension would be an effort to attract long-haul flights from Asia and the US.

In 2016, the CAA said a 90-metre runway end safety area (RESA) for the extended runway would be sufficient, which was disputed by the New Zealand Airline Pilots’ Association all the way to the Supreme Court, which rejected the airport’s planned RESA in December last year. International standards call for the RESA to be at least 90 metres, and, if practicable, at least 240 metres.

According to the agenda for the upcoming meeting of the Greater Wellington Regional Council’s environment committee, the airport has asked the Environment Court to adjourn its resource consent application for the extension a further nine months, giving it time to “re-apply to the Director of Civil Aviation for approval to operate the extended runway as proposed.” The court asked for comments on the request from interested parties, it said. 

The council said it’s considering whether the public should be re-notified about the proposed runway extension, which drew much public attention and discussion since it was first mooted in 2012. 

“Parties with an interest in the proposal have been discussing the implications of this delay, and whether the community should be consulted with again given the time that has passed since the application was originally consulted on,” the agenda says. “Should WIAL’s proposal remain unchanged then our preliminary view is that we wouldn’t consider public renotification to be necessary.” 

When the Supreme Court’s ruling was issued last year, the airport’s chief executive Steve Sanderson said it was still committed to extending the runway and would review the judgment. The airport said the court’s judgment and interpretation were “encouraging and provides more guidance on what the CAA should take into account.”

In that judgment, the Supreme Court said the CAA director’s responsibility when assessing plans was to start “with what the rules require rather than with what the airport operator proposes”, and this was “not an inconsequential difference of approach”. The director had not considered an alternative safety mechanism proposed by NZALPA because it wasn’t part of the airport’s plan, which the court said was an “erroneous approach.”

The court also said when considering whether the proposal was practicable, the CAA needed to use a more nuanced approach than it had done. The director had looked at the longer RESA case as a cost/benefit analysis, comparing the costs to the airport against the increased level of safety, but should also have considered the intended benefits to the airport, it said.

“If, for example, an extension to a runway would make available to an airport operator a new and substantial income stream, that additional benefit accruing to the operator may mean that a longer RESA is “practicable”, given that it is accepted that a longer RESA will enhance safety by reducing risk,” the court said. “We should make it clear that we are not suggesting that the director must somehow take into account the benefits to a particular region that may flow from a longer runway (although we note that WIAL did invoke the substantial benefit to the Wellington region when seeking the director’s acceptance of a 90m RESA for the northern extension).”

(BusinessDesk)

Posted some weeks back this is the submission by the Guardian’s of the Bay on the so-called Airport Extension, or otherwise known out this way as the White Elephant Project. What is interesting are the take outs from the submission. We’ve summarised them so you don’t have to read the entire thing though we suggest you do.

We’d suggest the authors have more skill and experience than the authors of the “reports” so far that have been anything but convincing in their argument to put our rates up and provide corporate welfare for a company that is not only helping contribute to emissions (Z Energy) but also has several hundred million sitting about.

Now, some of these are my notes mixed in with GotB’s notes. So that you know.

The original submission is here.

Things you didn’t know about the Wellington Airport Extension

There is still no way central government is going to pay because the Council hasn’t followed the Treasury Guidelines to apply for funding.

Despite calls for Consultation, the WCC not only has failed to do so, but it also appears that they have already made up their mind. Even Green councilors, Free, and Lee, have not made clear their stance.

When Dr. Rotmann went to speak [on the airport extension], she had the 2015 WIAL Annual Report figures open on her phone. In response to Andy Foster’s claim that the Council was getting its fair share of dividends from the airport, here are the actual numbers: WIAL made $108m in profit; has $842m in assets; $438m in equity and the Council got a measly $12m in dividends. (The WCC owns a third of the WIAL.)

Councillors have paid 50% of ratepayer money towards the airport’s resource consent reports and the Region said it would put up half of the cost of the runway extension ($150m – $90m by WCC and $60m by the other Councils, none of whom have put any money into it aside in their long-term plans, however). That is despite the (widely discredited) cost-benefit analysis by Sapere claiming that only 1/3 of the benefits would actually stay in the Region.

Most shocking, Councillors have not read the millions of dollars of reports they had commissioned. “She then asked the very pertinent question that all Councillors who had read the 27 airport reports should raise their hands. Unsurprisingly, not one hand went up.”

Two of the concerns have been a) the adverse southern end weather and its effect on the extension and b) whether they sea floor there can handle the millions of tonnes of fill. We still don’t know. “Insufficient data collection; the inability (due to ‘adverse Cook Strait conditions’) to complete even one of the seismic boreholes that needed to be undertaken to establish that the geomorphology in Lyall Bay was capable of taking the 3 million tonnes of rubble safely.”

In other words, researchers couldn’t answer that question because the conditions wouldn’t allow it.

Dr Rotmann finishes with:

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

Unfortunately, it is my opinion that the Councillors cannot do better. We see an escalating tactic by the WCC now moving from calling opponents names such as “anti-Wellington” to accusing concerned residents of running a smear campaign.

Celia had gone on record yesterday with the opinion that public criticism of the allocation of funding from the $9.3 million Economic Initiatives Development Fund [WEID] ‘was being driven by “some people” who were simply out to smear the Council’. – Source

It is true that the Airport runway extension does not make sense. Therefore it is important that the information gets out to the wider community, rather than just to a bunch of local bloggers. This from  Strathmore Park.

white_elephant_by_arabidopsis

For years now, Wellington International Airport and it’s pet monkey the WCC have been pushing for an airport extension. And for years now, it hasn’t stacked up. No small wonder when the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) and the Board of Airlines Representatives of New Zealand (BARNZ) slammed the business case that the Pollyanna Team had put together in support of the extension.

The WCC has poured millions after millions into this project paying for reports that have been slammed every time they are produced. This airport extension does not stack up, for anyone, other than Infratil.

Key Finding: the central scenario BCR of 1.7 is significantly over-stated

The reason that it stacks up for Infratil is that they, being in a monopoly position, can take profit based on square meterage. This is governed by the Commerce Commission. The more land they have the more profit they can take. It is no small wonder then that attempting to secure thousands of extra square meters, with the public paying far more than their fair share, is attractive.

There are numerous gaps in the draft analysis

But the Council continues to support the extension despite the evidence showing that it is not economically viable. Why?

The value of these benefits is overstated by $610 – 730 million through not properly accounting for the opportunity cost of labour, plant and machinery.

Having worked for Infratil (get the HR records out boys) and knowing the WCC particularly well, both, in my opinion, suffer from the Pollyanna Principle and the Overconfidence effect.

People suffering from the Pollyanna Principle are simply not capable of seeing the bad. Generally, people focus consciously on the positive, while sub-consciously on the negative. Those suffering from Pollyannaism subconsciously focus on the positive.

The forecasts of additional passenger volumes (1.25 million) are too high by a factor that may be up to 5. More conservative, and we believe more reasonable, estimates would see around 250,000 additional passengers coming into Wellington.

The Overconfidence Effect is characterised by three symptoms. First, thinking that you are cleverer than everyone else. Second, overestimating your performance. Third, the excessive certainty that you are right.

Sound like two organisations we all know and love?

We are also only too well aware that Wellington Airport is free to set prices as it sees fit. Even if it complies with the Commerce Commission’s guidelines, it can set its total aeronautical revenue to provide a return of about 8.5% after tax on an investment in an extension of the runway. With little additional revenue from airlines needing the extension, the revenue would be obtained by lifting charges on all other services — narrow bodied international, domestic trunk and regional services.

“But what of the Councillors and Mayor?” you ask, “Surely they can see this is a gigantic lemon?”

Well, yes. But to date, only two of them have asked any hard questions on the extension. David Lee and Helene Ritchie. The fanboys number the Mayor, the Deputy Mayor, Jo Coughlan, and Simon Marsh. All who appear to be suffering from Pollyannaism.

BARNZ is therefore concerned that the airport could invest in a wasteful project, knowing that it can use its monopoly power to increase prices on all services into Wellington and derive profits from retailing, car-parking and taxis to make a handsome return on a socially uneconomic project. BARNZ therefore advises the airport that, with no known airline demand for a longer runway, the project is highly speculative and should not proceed.

Let’s get something else straight here. BARNZ represents twenty-two airlines and has said before, that even if the extension is built, they won’t use it. This is not about competition, Air New Zealand, Qantas, and Jetstar are all members.

It’s about BARNZ figuring out if this is a good deal for their members. If it was, then they would support it, if it wasn’t. Well. Read the report.

The NZIER is a well-respected company.

Are we saying that both have some conspiratorial end-game they are trying to push? Are the WIAL and WCC saying both are liars?

Neither is this about NIMBY’s, unless you consider every ratepayer in Wellington to be one.

Hong Kong, which would not have enough connecting traffic to the west if there were already a direct long haul route to Singapore. Los Angeles, which the Inter VISTAS report says would only be viable for half the year, which would render it not viable. Dubai via Melbourne, which does not need an extension of the runway because Melbourne is already reached by narrow bodied aircraft from Wellington. Kuala Lumpur, which would not be viable if there is already a direct long haul route established to Singapore. It would be unlikely that there would be sufficient traffic for both hubs. Bangkok, which would not be viable for the same reason as Kuala Lumpur. Adelaide, which can already be reached without the runway extension.

It is clearly time that the Mayor and Councillors walked away from this shambles. We have poured millions into this project and the answer is really simple.

It doesn’t stack up.

BARNZ is calling on the airport’s shareholders to stop pursuing public subsidies and instead concentrate on providing efficient airport services for Wellington, enabling the city to be well connected at a reasonable cost to travellers.

The airport and fanboys have displayed a total unwillingness to answer any of these questions nor and of the previous ones. The rap sheet against the extension is now pages long.

The only question in my mind is if that Pollyannaism and Overconfidence Effect is going to cause the ratepayers to stump up hundreds of millions for a private company on a white elephant.

It’s possible. Look at the Island Bay cycleway.

These two organisations aren’t exactly rocket scientists are they? Why would we trust them with hundreds of millions of our cash?

If this was such a fantastic idea, why don’t Infratil stump up with the cash themselves?

Because it doesn’t stack up. And it never will.

Let’s be honest here and admit that we live in a city of around 400,000 people. The airport is a gateway to a few pubs on Courtney Place, the sight of bearded hipsters on Cuba Street and potentially a film museum providing the council doesn’t go bankrupt before it goes ahead.

Airport runway supporter and mayoral candidate Justin Lester had this to say

Lester claimed BARNZ was simply doing the bidding of Air New Zealand, which would prefer to keep as many long haul flights as possible landing in Auckland, rather than face competition from new services into the capital.

“It’s an Auckland-based lobbyist and they’re doing it on behalf of Air New Zealand,” Lester said.

“This is anti-Wellington.”

Well done Lester, you’ve used the same argument that the cycling zealots used in regards to the Island Bay Cycleway. “If you don’t support the proposal, then you are anti-bike and hate the environment.” It is a very immature statement to make.

Given that he started up Kapai, it is shocking that he doesn’t understand the difference between economic growth and throwing good money after bad.

That is exactly why he supports the council spending nearly $300 million in the last days of Celia Wade-Brown’s regime to create a legacy of cycleways, an overpriced film museum and a white elephant runway extension.

So what is the Wellington way then? Wasting millions on vanity projects and doing our best to increase carbon emissions in the guise of doing “our part” on stopping climate change?

Perhaps, this describes Lester quite well.

12674260_1188786397817276_850100392_n.jpg

As well as this hilarious interview.

pollyanna

For years now, Wellington International Airport and it’s pet monkey the Wellington City Council have been pushing for an airport extension. And for years now, it hasn’t stacked up. No small wonder when the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) and the Board of Airlines Representatives of New Zealand (BARNZ) slammed the business case that the Pollyanna Team had put together in support of the extension.

The WCC has poured millions after millions into this project paying for reports that have been slammed every time they are produced. This airport extension does not stack up, for anyone, other than Infratil.

Key Finding: the central scenario BCR of 1.7 is significantly over-stated.

The reason that it stacks up for Infratil is that they, being in a monopoly position, can take profit based on square meterage. This is governed by the Commerce Commission. The more land they have the more profit they can take. It is no small wonder then that attempting to secure thousands of extra square meters, with the public paying far more than their fair share, is attractive.

There are numerous gaps in the draft analysis.

But the Council continues to support the extension despite the evidence showing that it is not economically viable. Why?

The value of these benefits is overstated by $610 – 730 million through not properly accounting for the opportunity cost of labour, plant and machinery.

Having worked for Infratil (get the HR records out, boys) and knowing the WCC particularly well, both, in my opinion, suffer from the Pollyanna Principle and the Overconfidence effect.

People suffering from the Pollyanna Principle are simply not capable of seeing the bad. Generally, people focus consciously on the positive, while sub-consciously on the negative. Those suffering from Pollyannaism subconsciously focus on the positive.

The forecasts of additional passenger volumes (1.25 million) are too high by a factor that may be up to 5. More conservative, and we believe more reasonable, estimates would see around 250,000 additional passengers coming into Wellington.

The Overconfidence Effect is characterised by three symptoms. First, thinking that you are cleverer than everyone else. Second, overestimating your performance. Third, the excessive certainty that you are right.

Sound like two organisations we all know and love?

We are also only too well aware that Wellington Airport is free to set prices as it sees fit. Even if it complies with the Commerce Commission’s guidelines, it can set its total aeronautical revenue to provide a return of about 8.5% after tax on an investment in an extension of the runway. With little additional revenue from airlines needing the extension, the revenue would be obtained by lifting charges on all other services — narrow bodied international, domestic trunk and regional services.

“But what of the Councillors and Mayor?” you ask, “Surely they can see this is a gigantic lemon?”

Well, yes. But to date, only two of them have asked any hard questions on the extension: David Lee and Helene Ritchie. The fanboys number the Mayor, the Deputy Mayor, Jo Coughlan, and Simon Marsh. All who appear to be suffering from Pollyannaism.

BARNZ is therefore concerned that the airport could invest in a wasteful project, knowing that it can use its monopoly power to increase prices on all services into Wellington and derive profits from retailing, car-parking and taxis to make a handsome return on a socially uneconomic project. BARNZ therefore advises the airport that, with no known airline demand for a longer runway, the project is highly speculative and should not proceed.

Let’s get something else straight here. BARNZ represents twenty-two long-haul airlines and has said before, that even if the extension is built, they won’t use it. This is not about competition, Air New Zealand, Qantas, Singapore Airlines and Jetstar are all members.

It’s about BARNZ figuring out if this is a good deal for their members. If it was, then they would support it, if it wasn’t. Well. Read the report.

The NZIER is a well-respected company.

Are we saying that both have some conspiratorial end-game they are trying to push? Are the WIAL and WCC saying both are liars?

Neither is this about NIMBYs, unless you consider every ratepayer in Wellington to be one.

Hong Kong, which would not have enough connecting traffic to the west if there were already a direct long haul route to Singapore. Los Angeles, which the Inter VISTAS report says would only be viable for half the year, which would render it not viable. Dubai via Melbourne, which does not need an extension of the runway because Melbourne is already reached by narrow bodied aircraft from Wellington. Kuala Lumpur, which would not be viable if there is already a direct long haul route established to Singapore. It would be unlikely that there would be sufficient traffic for both hubs. Bangkok, which would not be viable for the same reason as Kuala Lumpur. Adelaide, which can already be reached without the runway extension.

It is clearly time that the Mayor and Councillors walked away from this shambles. We have poured millions into this project and the answer is really simple.

It doesn’t stack up.

BARNZ is calling on the airport’s shareholders to stop pursuing public subsidies and instead concentrate on providing efficient airport services for Wellington, enabling the city to be well connected at a reasonable cost to travellers.

The airport and fanboys have displayed a total unwillingness to answer any of these questions nor any of the previous ones. The rap sheet against the extension is now pages long.

The only question in my mind is if that Pollyannaism and Overconfidence Effect is going to cause the ratepayers to stump up hundreds of millions for a private company on a white elephant.

It’s possible. Look at the Island Bay cycleway.

These two organisations aren’t exactly rocket scientists are they? Why would we trust them with hundreds of millions of our cash?

If this was such a fantastic idea, why don’t Infratil stump up with the cash themselves?

Because it doesn’t stack up. And it never will.

Sources: 

BARNZ Submission to Wellington Airport

NZIER: Stretching Runway Numbers

BARNZ Press Release

cby Lindsay Shelton
The Wellington Airport campaign to promote a longer runway is similar to the Transport Agency’s campaign about building a flyover at the Basin Reserve. Both commissioned large numbers of experts to support what they wanted to do. Both failed to connect with the communities who would be most affected.

The Transport Agency commissioned 21 reports in support of its flyover idea –ten of them from Opus Consulting. This led to a discussion about conflict of interest, which was followed by the resignation of one of the four government-appointed members of the board of inquiry.

(At the same time as Opus was supporting the flyover plan, it was also writing a report for the Regional Council, warning that the consequences of building new motorways would increase congestion in Wellington. A reminder that experts can be commissioned to write reports that reflect different, even conflicting, points of view.)

The Transport Agency’s 21 reports failed to convince the board of inquiry, or the High Court, both of whom rejected the flyover.

And now the airport has released 27 reports, all singing the praises of a longer runway.

The one that we’ve focussed on is the noise report – which tells us that to build the runway there’ll need to be a truck-and-trailer-load of rocks travelling through the city every sixty seconds, ten hours a day, from Monday to Friday, for six months.

Lindsay Shelton: Wellington Scoop Editor

Infratil are getting increasingly testy over the questions now being asked by many around the viability of the Wellington Airport Extension and the perception of a corporate handout. In an post on David Farrar’s Kiwiblog, they level their guns at David Lee and Cameron Slater of WhaleOil.

In Sense from a Green Councillor, David Farrar questions the financial burden that will rest on ratepayers based on widely available public information. The airport has said that it won’t stump up their share of the cash and that it doesn’t make economic sense for them to do so.

David Farrar likens it to Corporate Welfare, and I agree. It is an interesting turn of events when a centre-right, high-profile commentator, like David agrees with a centre-left Councillor.

And it’s not just him. Cameron Slater has this year also commented on it in far, far stronger terms. In a piece titled So let’s extend an already dodgy runway and hope planes will comehe says:

There is no valid business case for long haul carriers to fly to Wellington…everything tourists want to see is either further south, or further north. Far better to fly into Christchurch or Auckland to be closer to Queenstown and Rotorua…there are no redeeming tourist destinations that can be easily accessed via Wellington.

Infratil’s response comes out swinging on David’s Blog:

David Lee’s article in today’s Dominion Post and the commentary attached to quotes from the article in the whaleoil blog are a mixture of platitudes, inaccuracies and comments that can only cause concern about the writers’ credulity.

Now I want you to read the definition of credulity:

Credulity is a state of willingness to believe in one or many people or things in the absence of reasonable proof or knowledge. Credulity is not simply a belief in something that may be false. The subject of the belief may even be correct, but a credulous person will believe it without good evidence.

There is some sweet irony in this when we consider that the airport and WCC have actively campaigned for this airport extension without any evidence that it will be beneficial. 

Exhibit A.

On that website, and others run by the Council, they have already decided that the benefits are awesome, amazing, and worth it. There is no balance and no mention of the fact there is no business case that backs it up.

Credulity indeed.

The response to the Blog slams Farrier and Cameron Slater, and by inference, those who are asking questions about the amount of money that ratepayers may require to stump up. I encourage you to read their response, I’m not going to post it all here again, I do want to take some of their statements. So read the full response for context please.

As to how much funding will be sought from the likely providers, absolutely nothing has yet been identified.

And then;

The Airport has indicated that it expects to contribute a sum to reflect the commercial value of the extra services/traffic generated by the extension. Amounts of $50-100 million have been mentioned as the likely range for this value, but until the business case is fully formed and modelled, no one knows.

So it is likely the airport will only pay for 1/6th to 1/3rd of the construction despite owning 2/3rds of the airport.

Once this exercise is concluded the various parties that have been identified as potential capital providers (Airport, Council, Government) will be approached to provide the construction funding.

Government has been unequivocal about what is required to get their money. A Better Business Case via Treasury. Now, we don’t know what format the business case will take, but if it is not in that form, then Government won’t pay a cent.

Perhaps the Councillor missed the presentation made last week on the topic of likely routes. The key point of the presentation from InterVistas (the world’s leading experts on airline route economics and demand) was that long-haul routes to Wellington will link Wellington to a hub; Singapore, KL, HK, LA, one of the Emirates.

And the key point that Infratil have not told us is that InterVistas is a lobby group and the perception is that they are not unbiased.

The article quotes at length representatives of the current airline users of the Airport who are opposed to its extension. Ask yourself, is their opposition to the extension (and their funding of opposition initiatives) based on their generous concern about Wellington or a desire to limit competition?

This is a spin angle the airport and it’s extension supporters keep raising. It’s nonsense. Auckland is long-haul and competition is not an issue. Why would BARNZ, with 22 airlines, not one or two, but 22, say this was a silly idea?

As for competition, holy monopoly Batman. The airport profits are basically kept in check by the Commerce Commission.

This project is a long long away from its final form. It can only happen if it gets the backing of private and public capital providers. This is uncommon in New Zealand and clearly there is plenty of discomfort with the prospect of “socialise costs, privatise profits”.

Well, that’s not quite true. Is it Infratil. In the NBR today, behind the paywall, Infratil have said that they have a $1 billion dollar war chest. If they think it is such a great idea, then why won’t they come out and say that they will pay two-thirds?

It does smell like a corporate handout when you look at that fact. Infratil could afford to pay for all of it.

I find it rich that Infratil is now publicly attacking commentators who are asking very valid questions about use of public money when they have actively promoted this as the panacea to all of Wellington’s Economic woes without any business case.

That would be the pot calling the kettle black?

As for having a go at Cameron Slater. Wow. Those of us who have been around for a while know how that will end.

Simon Marsh launched into David Lee this morning in an Op Ed in the Dominion Post about the airport extension. He accused his colleague of shooting himself in the foot. In a scene that reminded me of Yosemite Sam hunting Porky Pig, Swampy waved his guns around and managed to shoot himself in the foot. A few times.

His comment:

This [airport extension] must not be steamrollered through without the public being given the opportunity to have a transparent, balanced and factual conversation with full access to both sides of the argument” was the first injury.

He demanded a factual conversation; he then urged that no more money be spent on providing factual evidence.

“Perplexing, without carrying out studies, assessments and impact reports (21 at my last count) to provide the factual evidence needed to judge and debate the case opposing parties will be left making rude gestures to each other.”

Source

This makes my brain hurt. The opposing parties are already making gestures to each other and Simon says there are no less than twenty-one reports in play. Of which approximately one has been made public [Ed: At least two are public: the EY report and the InterVISTAS report, plus the Council’s own peer review of them by Airbiz/PwC]. Where are the other twenty? Do they even exist or is this just a made up number? Why have they not been made public? And isn’t David’s request reasonable? That being, we should debate this will all the facts and by the way, we’ve spent millions on it so far.

And then their are Simon’s “facts”, which are very worrying, because of all the Council thinks this then we have a problem, Houston.

Lee quotes airline representatives who claim to be concerned that Wellington could waste money expanding its airport and then find no airline wants to use it. Really?

So what they are saying is incumbent airlines do not want the airport expanded because that will let in more competition. Look at it this way. If I ran a very profitable dairy on Rongotai Rd and was creaming it, would I welcome other dairies to come and share in the profit? You must be joking.

Well, yes, really, and, it’s twenty-two airlines that have come out and said that the extension is a dumb idea, as well as Air New Zealand who has said that even if it is built, they won’t use it, because their strategy is to have a long-haul operation out of Auckland and Wellington to fly trans-Tasman only.

“The airline industry is criticising plans to extend Wellington Airport’s runway, saying there are better ways to spend $300 million.”

So no Simon, they don’t want to use it, and given they represent twenty-two airlines, the argument around competition will not stand. It doesn’t stand in Christchurch, it doesn’t stand in Auckland, and it doesn’t stand here.

As to the assertion that these airlines believe no-one will want to use it, council was presented with a case by the world’s leading experts in airline route demand, which unequivocally showed that several routes linking Wellington to northern hemisphere destinations would be viable.”

Well, no, you’re wrong again. The ‘world leading experts’ assume a number of things and don’t answer a bunch of others. Like, the fact that the Pilot’s Association has taken the Airport to court over safety margins and if they win, then we may be buying this extension to satisfy that alone. And, we also know from international pilots, that 300m will not be enough to allow wide-bodied aircraft to take off fully loaded, which we assume would be needed given long-haul could be plus 12,000 km.

Let’s make something else clear, that information that was sent to Council, came from InterVISTAS, who strangely, consult on all manner of airport growth and construction. That sounds to me like a conflict of interest. OIA anyone? InterVISTAS is a well known lobby group. 

Back to Air New Zealand as well. Having now defeated Swampy’s “competition argument”, rather soundly, let’s look at what they said a few months back.

Here is the Chief Executive Officer of Air New Zealand discussing regional strategy, which apparently, some Councillors know more about than he does:

The data that the Wellington City Council has tells us that there are twelve Wellingtonians that want to go to Singapore. There is probably about fourteen people going to Hong Kong. So even if we flew a 777 from Wellington to Singapore we might get a three-fold increase in passengers (36), which would be unprecedented in airline experience.

Reporter: “How will the tourists come if an airline does not want to fly and it’s not sustainable for them?”

Then,

Reporter: “So even if you are looking at the incoming, rather than the outgoing, it doesn’t add up, and even if it is via a stopover in Singapore, you are saying that it doesn’t add up to bring these planes into Wellington?”

CEO: “Correct.”

Finally,

CEO: “If it is going to cost $350 million to build a runway, that airlines may not use, wouldn’t it be better to build the proposition of Wellington in other ways?”

Air New Zealand explains that in order to setup a long-haul route Air New Zealand (or any airline for that matter) they must make an investment of between $300m and $400m because it requires two wide-bodied aircraft. Each route costs a further $160m a year to run and relies on filling a three hundred seat aircraft to about 80%, or two-hundred thousand people over a year. The Air NZ CEO points out that up to nine airlines have pulled out of New Zealand because of this investment, and they already had access to a longer airport, Auckland.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion.

However, when you are a City Councillor that is going to have to vote on probably $200m or more of our money being spent, (the airport won’t put in a third of the money and Central Government has said they won’t fund it) and see a community destroyed (more than one), for what appears to be a white elephant so far, citing reports the public hasn’t seen, and getting basic facts incorrect, man, you have to worry.

As an aside, I had a main stream reporter call me this morning and ask did I know if the Airport PR team had written Simon’s Op Ed? I have no idea.

Let’s hope the other Councillors have done their research.

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.

The Council isn’t known for its accuracy with figures. They are a bit of a movable feast, as is time, and other elements. So when the Mayor sent out a press release yesterday on the statistics around the Long Term Plan (LTP) and how awesome it has been, with actual statistics, I thought “doesn’t look right to me.” So, I ran some stats for myself and sure enough, they are different.

Mayor Wade-Brown says 71 percent of people who used the Council’s new purpose-built consultation website support the overall 10-Year Plan and, importantly, a statistically-valid survey shows a similar level of support. – Source

Before we get into it, this is what I have crunched:

Celia says 71 percent support the LTP

The website says 68 percent support the LTP

Strathmore Park says 66 percent support the LTP

So there is an optimism bias of at least 5 percent in the Mayor’s press release. So here’s what I did.

I used the consultation website and scraped all the statistical data for every idea that was proposed then matched that against the Mayor’s news release. It’s interesting to say the least.

The top five ideas according to the scraped data, are, in order:

  1. Ocean Exploration Centre
  2. Hockey Stadium
  3. Johnsonville Upgrades
  4. The New Zealand Festival
  5. The Basin Reserve Redevelopment

The bottom five ideas according to the scraped data, are, 5 being worst:

  1. A longer runway (24)
  2. Infrastructure (including storm water) (25)
  3. Bus Priority and Vehicle Network (26)
  4. Stormwater Monitoring (27)
  5. Car Park Sensors (28)

So let’s go back and look at the news release from Council in a little more detail:

There was a 400% increase in the number of people submitting feedback via the web, which attracted 12,872 visits from 7568 people. Pages on the website were looked at 54,195 times.

The actual number of people who submitted via the website is 2,182. So while a lot of people visited, and the number is good, the actual response is low. In fact, overall it has quite a high margin of error. Particularly for low response ideas, i.e. World War I Commemorations, at 25% plus or minus.

The Council also had around 170 people speak at the Long Term Plan’s oral hearings. They were part of a total 1017 submissions received, including 597 emails, 232 online submissions and 188 written submissions in the post.

This seems to assert an earlier issue that was raised, and ignored, being that the Website wasn’t actually the formal mechanism for submissions. In other words, you could have your say, but if you wanted to formally submit, you had to go somewhere else to do it.

Now, I have an email trail that proves this, which can be released if necessary, and I want to state it again.

If you thought that using the “Our Ten Big Ideas” website was a formal submission to the Wellington City Council on the Long Term Plan, you are wrong. Further, I strongly encourage you to contact your Councillors and complain about the fact that the website if not misrepresented, construed that you were making a formal submission, in my opinion. 

* face palm and generally massive fail *

We know this because only 232 submissions were made online, but the data shows 2,182 responded to the “Our Ten Year Plan” website.

This is awful.

When asked in an online questionnaire if they support the Council’s broad approach to invest for growth – in addition to providing current levels of service – 70% said yes.

Where did this come from? Who can remember filling in an online questionnaire with this question? The questionnaire apparently also says that we are happy to see rate increases. Really? Everyone I talk to is fuming at the near fifty percent rate increase mooted over the length of the LTP. Who on earth did the poll?

The most submissions Council received on an issue were on cycling. It received 500 submissions with 493 supporting the plan to invest in a cycle path network.

So, the headline to the news article is “71% support for city’s ten-year plan; cycling gets most submissions”, which, you could be forgiven, seems to say that cycling is very important, if not most important of the ideas.

By our ranking, it comes in at number 19.

Here are some more discrepancies in the rankings:

  1. Council says that Longer Runway is 1, we rank it at 25
  2. Council says the Cycling Network is at 2, we rank it at 19
  3. Council says Hockey Stadium is 3, we rank it 2.
  4. Council says Ocean Exploration Centre is at 4, we rank it 1.
  5. Council says Johnsonville Upgrades is at 22, we rank it 3.

Surprise surprise. The Council’s two biggest hobby horses make it to number one and two where the website shows them down in the bottom of the pack from our perspective, the ratepayers.

Never missing an opportunity for self-congratulation;

The website was set up to communicate and engage with residents was a huge success with unparalleled traffic throughout the consultation period.

What a mess. Once again, in my opinion, the Council is cherry-picking statistics and “consultation” submissions in order to push through their political agenda rather than listen to the ratepayers, that not only have been, in my opinion, tricked by a pretty website, but also have shown that their priorities are at direct variance with our Council.

Worse, in my opinion it shows optimism bias, the inability to see things that might disrupt the pet project. That kind of bias is disastrous, because it overlooks risk and cost in projects, which then can lead to failure.

Just as well we don’t have much more than a year before elections.

An excellent blog from Keith Johnson in which holes are found in assumptions around rates rises. I too had much difficulty in finding out what the actual rate rises were going to be. Of the handful of Councillors I polled only one could definitively explain it to me, two were “pretty sure” it was slightly different figures, and another three didn’t actually know.

Now although I have tried to foreswear agitated involvement in WCC’s financial chicanery on the grounds that it is both bad for my blood pressure and unpleasant to have to entangle myself with tax evaders, blowhards and incompetents, I blew my stack when I read the Dominion Post article of 19 May ‘Differential rates ‘block to business growth’.

This described how our Billy Budd Deputy Mayor Justin Lester was flirting with the Property Council on the issue of the further rebalancing of the rates burden against residential ratepayers in favour of business / commercial ratepayers.

Read the entire blog here: WELLINGTON CITY COUNCIL SPENDING BANKS STEEPLY IN STATISTICAL FOG