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?

News from Guardians of the Bays

Wellington International Airport’s decision to withdraw its Environment Court application should mark the end of a protracted and costly process for ratepayers, according to community organisations and concerned Wellingtonians opposed to the project.

The Airport first lodged its application for resource consent with the Environment Court in April 2016. That application was put on hold in April 2018 to allow time for serious safety concerns raised by the New Zealand Pilots Association (NZALPA) to be resolved. Those concerns have still not been resolved satisfactorily which is why the airport had to withdraw its consent application.

Co-Chair of Guardians of the Bays Richard Randerson, representing more than 600 concerned individuals as well as other community and ratepayer organisations, said that Wellington Airport had run a protracted and flawed process since they first made the extension proposal.

“There has neither been the demand nor the support for the Airport’s proposal. Wellington Airport has drawn down significant amounts of ratepayer funding for an Environment Court application that has tripped over itself at every turn.

“The Airport is saying it is simply going to redo its proposal and resubmit. Given the many millions of dollars that ratepayers have already paid to the Airport, the Wellington City Council should not commit to any further ratepayer funding for this project.

“The Airport Company’s blind determination to proceed made a mockery of the hundreds of people who submitted against the proposal and of the very real safety concerns about the safety margins that any international airport should meet. The submissions from business, community groups and individuals show up many unanswered questions,” Mr Randerson said.

Co-Chair Dr Sea Rotmann called on the Wellington City Council, representing ratepayers’ shareholding in the Airport company, to call time on any political and financial support for the proposal and put the “White Elephant” proposal to bed, once and for all.

“In this local body election year, it would be an opportune time for all candidates, including the Mayor, to stop this farce once and for all and move on with better projects for our city, like social housing, traffic congestion, infrastructure and earthquake and climate change resilience,” she said.

“The Council’s Low Carbon Capital Plan is also utterly incompatible with support for an extended runway, as aviation emissions are already almost 25 percent of our City’s emissions profile.

“The airport has never had a convincing business case and there is no evidence that airlines will actually use the runway to bring long-haul flights into Wellington. The much-touted ‘Capital Express’ route to Canberra has been canned, after publicly available loading data clearly showed the route was achieving less than a 50 percent passenger loading. And that is despite a $9 million ratepayer subsidy to promote the route.

“We call on Mayor Justin Lester to make good on his promise, made shortly after he was elected last year, that his support was dependent on demand for the route. It has been proven that the demand is not there and yet the Mayor continues to support it.

“The airport extension was going to cost up to $500m according to one expert – much more than the $300 million originally suggested when this process started, four years ago.

“Combined with all the other projects that Wellington City Councillors are also signing up to, ratepayers will be straining under increasing rates and a massive increase in the City Council’s total borrowings, projected to grow from $404.1 million to $806.5 million.

“Wellington ratepayers should not be faced with the financial risk of the extension. The Airport company’s 66 per cent shareholder Infratil have publicly said they are only willing to cover about 17 per cent of the cost.

“What has happened to the many millions of ratepayer dollars of financial support towards the technical reports which are now moot and towards fancy marketing to sell this ill-fated project? It’s time to admit that this has been a costly mistake and to focus on more important infrastructure resilience projects for our city.”

A decision by the Environment Court to proceed with Wellington International Airport’s runway extension application is disappointing given the length of delays, increasing costs and strong public opposition, according to community groups opposed to the proposal.

Richard Randerson, Co-Chair of Guardians of the Bays, representing more than 600  concerned individuals and community groups said Wellington Airport had run a protracted and flawed process.

“It is now January 2019 – more than two-and-a-half years after the application was first made and yet key questions around safety and the business case are still unanswered.

The Airport first lodged its application for resource consent in April 2016. That application was put on hold soon after as safety concerns over the length of the runway’s safety areas were still to be resolved in a separate court case initiated by the New Zealand Pilots Association. It was due to resume end of 2018 but the safety concerns have still not been resolved, with a delay of least another 5 months pending a ruling by the Civil Aviation Authority Director General.

“At the time the Airport made its first application to the Environment Court, 525 of the 776 submissions were opposed to the runway extension, expressing a wide variety of concerns, including around a bad economic case, and social and environmental impacts. The Airport’s white elephant has cost ratepayers many millions of dollars already and makes a mockery of the hundreds of people who submitted against the proposal,” he said.

Co-Chair Dr Sea Rotmann said the delays had already added further costs to the ratepayer bill and put serious stress on the affected parties.

“We were grateful to Judge Dwyer, who was very sympathetic in his ruling and made the highly-unusual decision of awarding us costs. He admitted that his decision to grant the airport the initial extension to the case meant the ‘Sword of Damocles’ would continue to hang over the community.

“He also agreed with us that Wellington Airport’s continued requests for extensions undermined the direct referral process and that its technical data, which will now not be heard until at least mid-2020, will become outdated, being almost 6 years old by then.

“The Judge also wanted to make sure that any other affected parties, like people who recently moved into the area or people along the large proposed infill transport route will also be able to get a say in court.”

“Where we respectfully disagree with the Judge’s ruling, is that the continued stress of  litigation would not disappear even if he struck out this case. He accepted the airport’s notion of “immediately re-applying” as soon as they receive consent for a short Runway End Safety Area from the CAA Director General. For one, it is unlikely that this will be the case, and if it is, there is a good chance of another judicial review which will drag on for several years like the last one. We also think it was preposterous for the airport to claim that these events were “unforeseen”. It was their decision to apply for resource consent even though serious questions over the safety of the proposal were still being discussed in court. Secondly, there is a lot of effort and cost involved to start a new direct referral process, and it is not a given that the Council will grant its permission, again.”

Richard Randerson called on Wellington City Council – as a significant Wellington Airport shareholder – to “call time” on the proposal on behalf of all ratepayers.

“Wellington Airport has not done its homework and the Council has already given them many millions of dollars of ratepayer money for a business case and application that don’t stack up.

“Combined with all the other projects that Wellington City Councillors are signing up to, including the Convention Centre, the cycle ways and the new transport strategy, ratepayers will also be straining under increasing rates and a massive increase in the City Council’s total borrowings, projected to grow from $404.1 million to $806.5 million[1],” he said.

“Why should Wellington ratepayers be asked to shoulder the financial risk of this proposed extension, when the Airport company’s 66 percent shareholder Infratil, will not. They have publicly said they are only willing to cover about 17 percent of the cost.

“Our Mayor and Councillors should be advocating for the long-term interests of all Wellingtonians, not for a multi-national billion dollar company. The reduction in international traffic and closure of the Singpore Airlines’ Capital Express route show there simply isn’t enough demand.

“The Mayor wants Wellington to become a Low Carbon Capital. With almost 25 percent of our emissions being related to the airport, this extension would lead to the opposite.”

[1] John Milford: DominionPost (24 June 2015) http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/comment/69627041/wellington-city-council-needs-to-curb-its-rate-rises

 

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.

READ MORE:
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Supreme Court deals blow to Wellington Airport runway extension plan
Wellington Airport lines up Chinese construction giant for runway extension
Airports group joins Supreme Court hearing to warn of risks from pilots’ safety challenge
Wellington Airport claims not all planes need to be able to land on longer runway

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

Media Release by the Guardians of the Bays

An announcement that hearings for Wellington Airport’s runway extension could be potentially delayed till late 2019 should be a final nail in the coffin for the Airport’s proposal, according to community and ratepayer groups concerned about the mounting costs to Wellingtonians.

Guardians of the Bays, representing almost 600 community and ratepayer organisations and concerned individuals, said it was time for the Airport to realise the project was unviable – from both, a cost and community perspective. The Environment Court resource consent process for the extension was put on hold in April and was due to resume this month. Guardians of the Bays Co-Chair Richard Randerson said: “Wellington Airport has tried desperately to stack up its claims that there will be an economic benefit from the proposed airport extension for Wellington without success. It has drawn down significant amounts of ratepayer funding for its Environment Court application.These delays will just be adding further costs to the ratepayer bill. There is already evidence that the proposal is likely to cost much more than the $300m originally suggested four years ago when this process started – up to $500m according to one expert.”

“In addition, much of the Airport’s evidence will now be completely out-of-date with the considerable environmental and economic changes that have occurred in the nearly six years since this whole process started. The Airport’s white elephant has cost ratepayers millions of dollars already and makes a mockery of the hundreds of people who submitted against the proposal. More than 700 submissions were made to the Environment Court on the application and the majority of these were against the proposal. At the same time that the Government is taking the lead and focusing on spending that improves the lives of Wellingtonians and all New Zealanders, Wellington Airport’s plans will also displace Wellington social housing tenants as it forges ahead with its plans despite every conceivable benefit having been shown to be wishful thinking”, he said.

“Wellington Airport has been trying to acquire properties on Calabar Rd, along the eastern side, including nine social housing units owned by Wellington City Council, which are home to 30 residents. It has also been buying up properties at Moa Point, where residents will be most severely affected by the proposed extension. Co-Chair Dr Sea Rotmann said it was time for the Mayor and Councillors of Wellington City to cut their losses on the proposed airport extension and move on. “It could be late 2019 before the Environment Court process is resumed under this scenario. That is six years since this all began – and just too long for the residents, whanau and communities potentially affected by this project.”

“The Airport is trying to do something that just doesn’t add up. These delays come on top of the announcement earlier this year that Singapore Airlines had canned its much-touted ‘Capital Express’ route to Canberra. As much as we might wish for it, there just isn’t enough demand for long-haul international flights out of Wellington and the social and environmental costs are just too high. “Wellington ratepayers have already spent $9 million dollars of ratepayer money to promote the route, yet publicly available loading data clearly shows that the Capital Express achieved less than a 50 percent passenger loading. In a meeting with Wellington Mayor Justin Lester shortly after he was elected last year, he was clear that the Council’s support of the Wellington Airport extension was dependent on demand for the route.”

“Wellington ratepayers are being asked to shoulder a risk that Wellington International Airport and Infratil, who have a 66 percent share in the Airport, will not enter into because they know it’s not worth it. Infratil has indicated it is only willing to cover about 17 percent of the cost but is demanding Wellingtonians and taxpayers foot the rest of the bill. The additional ratepayer millions wasted on advertising this white elephant and collecting data for technical reports which will be long out-of-date, will never be recovered. It’s basically money that got dumped into Cook Strait.”

“The proposed airport extension is not about what is good for Wellington. It is about what is good for Wellington Airport. It’s high time to stop this farce and move on with better projects for our city, like social housing, traffic congestion, infrastructure and earthquake and climate change resilience,” she said.

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)

An announcement today that Singapore Airlines has canned its route to Canberra is a stark admission that there is not enough demand for international flights out of Wellington, say those concerned about the ongoing spending of ratepayer and taxpayer money on the venture.

Guardians of the Bays, representing more than 600 community and ratepayer organisations and concerned individuals, is concerned that public money has been used to subsidise the route despite it being obvious for some time that it was not successful.

Guardians of the Bays Co-Chair Richard Randerson said it was no surprise that Singapore Airlines was pulling the plug on the Wellington – Canberra – Singapore route.

Despite spending at least $3 million dollars of ratepayer money to promote the route, publicly available loading data clearly shows that the route achieved less than a 50 percent passenger loading. That is great if you like lots of seats on your plane, but it isn’t great for ratepayers who have been subsidising this route for more than a year – for no discernible benefit. Canberra has a similar-sized population to Wellington, and if Canberra cannot muster a payload, it is unlikely Wellington can do anything better.

Latest figures from international monitoring sites show the much touted Capital Express – or Wellington to Canberra flights – have not been working. The latest figures from the Australian Government’s Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development show that in August 2017, the Singapore Airlines Wellington to Canberra flight had an average passenger load factor of 128 passengers per flight (based on 16 return services). That is a load factor of 48 percent.

Further figures show that international passenger traffic at Wellington Airport was up only 1.9 percent in the 12 months to September 2017, with Australian visitors actually down 2.2 percent in the same period.

Wellington Airport has tried desperately to stack up its claims that there will be an economic benefit from the proposed airport extension for Wellington without success. It has drawn down significant amounts of ratepayer funding for its Environment Court application and for the Singapore Airlines subsidy and promotion.

“There is already evidence that the proposal is likely to cost much more than the $350m originally suggested, up to $500m according to one expert.

“The proposed airport extension is not about what is good for Wellington. It is about what is good for Wellington Airport and its multi-billion dollar owner Infratil.

Co-chair Dr Sea Rotmann said it was time for the Mayor and Councillors of Wellington City to cut their losses on the proposed airport extension and move on.

In a meeting with Wellington Mayor Justin Lester, shortly after he was elected last year, he was clear that the Council’s support of the Wellington Airport extension was dependent on demand for the route.

This change of route proves that Wellington Airport and Singapore Airlines are scrambling to find a route that works economically.  It is a shame that Singapore Airlines has got caught up in this debacle as it has an excellent brand but appears to have been captured by vested interests.

“It is time for our community leaders to follow the Government’s lead and focus on spending that improves the lives of Wellingtonians and all New Zealanders, not just the few,” she said.

By Dave Armstrong: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/98996698/Airport-extension-shouldn-t-be-allowed-off-the-ground?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=Twitter
There's no  money to build the runway extension at Wellington.

KEVIN STENT/STUFF

There’s no money to build the runway extension at Wellington.

OPINION: Last Sunday in Beijing, Wellington Airport signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with a Chinese construction company and the China Express airline.

Hallelujah! Wellington has the world’s biggest construction company to help extend its runway so millions of tourists can flood into Wellington.

The parties will apparently work together on the extension, develop the airport area and market Wellington as a destination. Yet as Scoop website reminded us last week, our council signed a similar MOU with a different Chinese construction company in 2015.

And remember the MOU that Celia Wade-Brown signed in China to build that lovely Chinese Garden that currently sits in Frank Kitts Park? Oops – what a civic embarrassment that has been. I’m sure there must be an old Chinese proverb about Wellington mayors who rashly sign MOUs ending up with gravel rash at election time.

READ MORE
Wellington Airport lines up Chinese construction giant for runway extension

Airports group joins Supreme Court hearing to warn of risks from pilots’ safety challenge
Wellington Airport claims not all planes need to be able to land on longer runway

But there’s just one minor problem with the plethora of  memorandums that have been flowing out of China like the Yangtze. There’s no bloody money to build the runway extension.

Most of the city’s Councillors, as well as many citizens, see no need for it. MOUs are not worth the paper they are written on if there’s no money involved. They are Purex memorandums.

In the past, central government has been uninterested in funding the runway extension. Steven Joyce rightly asked why taxpayers and ratepayers should throw more than $300 million at an asset mainly owned by a private company that makes over $600m profit a year.

Will Jacinda Ardern’s belief that climate change is her generation’s nuclear free moment cause her Government to fund a runway extension, currently held up by legal action from pilots, which will greatly increase emissions? I don’t think so.

And despite the mayor, council chief executive and Wreda (Wellington’s Really Expensive Dining Agency) being enthusiastic about the latest MOU, there is little enthusiasm from city councillors.

Even one of the most pro-runway-extension candidates in the Southern Ward by-election, Labour’s Fleur Fitzsimons, said she would support a runway only if the council limited its expenditure to its share in the airport company (33 per cent), and then only if there was a robust business case, which so far there has not been.

But our mayor is right behind what many see as unnecessary corporate welfare in a city saddled with more than $500m debt. In China, Justin Lester said that despite Wellington being named as one of the most liveable cities in the world, “our front door to the world is closed because we don’t have a truly international airport”.

Really? So tourists don’t come here simply because we don’t have a long runway? I look forward to Mr Lester reducing unemployment by making the doors of WINZ offices narrower, reducing crime by building smaller prisons and increasing Wellington’s exports by building bigger cranes on our earthquake-munted port.

Last week I ran into a former colleague who works for a North Island tourism operation. He never mentioned runways, but reckoned the big challenge with Asian tourists is that many perceive New Zealand as essentially being the South Island with its stunning scenery – a “Switzerland of the South”.

Many of them give the North Island a miss. An extended runway won’t change that perception.

Queenstown Airport can be hazardous, is often closed during winter, has few night flights and, like Wellington, has most of its international flights coming from Australia. Yet it is going gangbusters.

Perhaps instead of extending the runway, Wellington City Council could commission a giant papier mache model of the Remarkables to stand in the background of Wellington Airport?

It’s interesting that so many of the city’s current issues – train strikes, buses not turning up, bus drivers with uncertain futures, blocked drains and dud street lighting, polluting diesel buses, and the runway extension – can all be traced back to once-efficient council and state assets being privatised.

Can I suggest that the majority of city councillors who believe that the runway extension is a folly ignore the MOUs and quietly take the $90m allocated for the runway extension in the Long-Term Plan and reallocate it to something better?

It can’t be that hard to find something more useful than $90m of corporate welfare.

Original article here.

OPINION:  Last week, the umpteenth repeat of the famous Fawlty Towers ”Germans” episode was playing on my TV. Despite having seen it countless times, I had to stop and watch a hilariously concussed, goose-stepping John Cleese say “don’t mention the war” in front of tearful Germans.

This reminded me of our present Wellington City Council, where the rule seems to be “don’t mention the airport runway extension”.

The issue was a major one last term. Never mind that extending the runway would greatly increase greenhouse emissions, our Green mayor got right behind it. And despite the airport extension arguably being corporate welfare, the Labour deputy mayor, and now our present mayor, strongly supported it, too.

Council chief executive Kevin Lavery was also a big fan, naming the runway extension in early 2016 – along with the Film Museum and Convention Centre, which also seems to be in a state of limbo – as an area in which he wanted to make “real progress”.

Lavery and mayor Justin Lester were also involved in brokering the “Capital Express” route deal, which saw Singapore Airlines fly from Singapore to Canberra to Wellington, and receive a nice council subsidy in the process.

Surely if a direct flight from Singapore was successful then that would show that a runway extension would bring even bigger planes and more tourists to enjoy Te Papa, the cable car and the Wellington Seve … oops.

With the regular exception of councillors Sarah Free, David Lee and Helene Ritchie, the council agreed to support extension plans and fund a feasibility study.

But during the mayoral campaign some leopards changed their spots. After initially supporting the extension, Nicola Young did more research and came out against it. Even runway-friendly councillor Jo Coughlan questioned the deal. There seemed little public appetite for the extension.

Yet since election day, we have heard very little about the extension from councillors. Has our mayor been going around in a Cleese-like manner saying, “Don’t mention the runway extension. I did once but I think I got away with it.” Or has interest simply waned?

None of our new councillors have publicly supported the extension. Of the old guard, only Mayor Lester and “Swampy” Marsh have expressed support, and not for a while.

Can you blame everyone for keeping quiet? According to the airport, international arrivals have dropped by 9000 in the last year. However, Wellington-Auckland trips have increased.

I’m sure the airport would argue that the numbers would reverse if we had a longer runway, in the same way Roger Douglas argues that any failures of Rogernomics were because he wasn’t allowed to go far enough.

As for the Singapore route, even though it was touted as a great deal by subsidy supporters, Singapore Airlines recently announced that it was cutting back on flights to Wellington from August to October. To be fair, the cutback is only about 5 per cent and the airline said it is simply dealing with lower demand in the off-season. Surely demand will pick up in January with the glorious summer weather and the Wellington Seve … oops.

When Mayor Lester recently addressed anti-runway lobby group Guardians of the Bay, co-chair Dr Sea Rotman reported that, “Mr Lester stated that if the [Singapore] ‘Capital Express’ route take-up indicated a lack of demand, the runway extension would be taken off the table.”

Though a 5 per cent drop is hardly the sort of customer drop-off that happened with events like the Seven … oops … I’m sure it’s still far from the type of demand that he and other runway supporters had hoped for.

Since being elected, Mr Lester has won many friends. His response to the Kaikoura earthquake was exemplary, his support for council housing has widespread support, and his progressive council has been praised by both business and citizen groups. The mayor’s style of efficient but consensual leadership has drawn praise from councillors on all sides.

If the “Capital Express” route continues to be sluggish, then Lester would have good reason to do what I suspect the majority of his councillors and Wellington’s ratepayers want him to do and throw the plans for this hazardous boondoggle off the table and deep into the dangerous 9-metre Lyall Bay swell.

 – Dave Armstrong, The Dominion Post

For immediate release 6 March 2017

Residents’ and ratepayers’ group the Guardians of the Bays have today welcomed news that Wellington International Airport has requested an interim adjournment of proceedings from the Environment Court. The request from the Airport comes in response to the Court of Appeal ruling that the Civil Aviation Authority must reconsider its decision on the length of the proposed runway safety area.

Guardians of the Bays’ Co-Chair Richard Randerson said the request showed that WIAL has not considered all the issues in enough depth. “We are pleased that the Airport is reconsidering its position. The runway extension proposal continues to face hurdles because it has not been well considered or evaluated. This serious concern around safety is just one of many examples where the numbers don’t stack up. There is already evidence that the proposal is likely to cost more than the $350m originally suggested. An extension to the runway safety area would push costs well over the half a billion dollars it is currently expected to reach and would put the project well outside the parameters of the current Environment Court application.”

Co-Chair Dr. Sea Rotmann said the burden to ratepayers and taxpayers of the proposed extension continued to be unacceptable – particularly as the suggested benefits are anything but guaranteed. “No airline has committed to flying into an extended airport and the one airline currently flying (via Canberra) is getting very low loadings, according to an independent monitor of routes around the world. The Airport has specified the limit for its own investment in the extension at $100m now. Anything above this must come from Wellington ratepayers and New Zealand taxpayers. The business case for the runway still hasn’t gone through the Treasury’s Better Business Case process to prove if it is even eligible for public funding.”

In a meeting with the Guardians last month, Mayor Justin Lester said that the extension was not likely to happen anytime soon and that Wellington City Council would not commit to providing more than $90m. “It was heartening to hear our Mayor show he is sensitive to the issues at play and that he has put a limit on more public funding to support the Airport’s case – we expect him to stand by that,” said Dr Rotmann. “The Council already gave the Airport $3m of ratepayer’s precious money to fund the creation of its reports, which are consistently being shown to be little more than ‘spin’ to support the Airport’s slant on the proposal.”

“It would be best for the Airport to withdraw its application completely, rather than further burden the hard-working individuals who are raising their own funds to be able to participate in the Environment Court Process.”
ENDS

Media contacts: Dr Sea Rotmann 021 246 9438 and Richard Randerson 04 976 6050/ 021 159 6734