Wellington Scoop

“No satisfactory outcome” for runway extension, says Judge

Report from RNZ
There will be no satisfactory outcome when a final decision on the Wellington Airport extension resource consent is released, an Environment Court judge has said.

At a judicial conference in the Environment Court this week, Judge Brian Dwyer heard from opponents who want the resource consent thrown out and from Wellington Airport, who want a further six-months to file an application for resource consent.

In March this year, the airport asked for proceedings to be put on hold until October as it dealt with a supreme court ruling about the proposed length of the runway, but now it wasn’t expecting a decision from the Civil Aviation Authority until March next year.

Lawyer for Guardians of the Bay and Hue Te Taka James Gardiner-Hopkins said it was “deja vu” being back in the courtroom.

He argued that the resource consent had been sought under a direct referral – where the consent is decided by the Environment Court rather than the local council – in order to speed up the process, but that had not happened.

Many of the technical reports were out of date and it would be better to start afresh with a new resource consent that would go through the council, Mr Gardiner-Hopkins said.

“With a restart, there is a greater possibility of community participation. [It will be] a rejuvenated process rather than one that has been left to languish”

Judge Dwyer said it would be almost four years from when the consent was first lodged by the time a decision on the resource consent was made.

He raised concerns that there would have been new residents who had moved to the area in that time who would not have been consulted with.

Legal representatives for Wellington Airport said the company “was anxious to move on with the project but circumstances were out of its control.” They said the company could provide an economic assessment and route development assessment by March.

They refuted Mr Gardiner-Hopkins’ argument that the legal process was causing stress for his clients, because they said all they were required to do was read reports. The comment drew heckles from Guardians of the Bay members in the room.

Wellington Airport lawyers said they have every intention to reapply if the consent is struck-out.

Jump Jet, a developing regional airline, also submitted against the consent because, it told the court, it couldn’t attract investors until a decision was made.

Judge Dwyer reserved his decision but not before addressing members of the public in the room.

“It doesn’t matter how you look at it, it is totally unsatisfactory – it’s a bit like being in a legal spiders web.”

Outside the courtroom, chair of Guardians of the Bay Dr Sea Rotmann said she was happy with how the day’s proceedings went.

“He will hopefully agree with us that enough is enough and [after] four plus years of a direct referral, that could have been done in the first place if the airport had done its due diligence.” She said the community were suffering from “litigation fatigue” after years of the drawn out process and starting again would mean less strain on community resources.

“There is a huge difference in starting it afresh with all the extra money that they are going to need to spend on publicising it – including the council – versus having all the onus on us on having to drag the zombie corpses of this out of the graves and do the work for the airport basically.”

In a statement Wellington Airport said it “is committed to bringing the project to fruition and delivering the benefits for Wellington, the region and the country.”

“There is overwhelming support from Wellingtonians for direct long haul flights. The business community, tertiary and education institutes, tourism organisations and the creative and film sector have all submitted on the benefits they see for the region.

“We now await Environment Court’s decision on the application.”


  1. Concerned Wellingtonian, 16. December 2018, 7:48

    Even if there is “overwhelming support from Wellingtonians for direct long haul flights” we can wait until there are the slight improvements which need to be made to the design of long haul planes which would allow them to use our existing runway.
    In the meantime WCC (as a big shareholder in the airport company) needs to vote on whether they support the present position so that we can vote against those who want to spend our money on extending the runway.

  2. Andrew, 16. December 2018, 11:10

    I think ‘slight improvements’ is an understatement. We will need massive changes in aircraft to get a fully laden long range aircraft to fly and out of Wellington. Materials development to make them lighter and more efficient turbines. As with anything that gets more complex the development time and costs will only increase.

  3. Jason, 16. December 2018, 14:32

    I agree with Andrew (above). Long haul aircraft will not improve to the point of allowing operations into and out of this VERY short runway anytime soon ..
    What is the issue? Wellington is very fortunate that “its“ runway has very little impact on noise sensitive areas. Wellington (Capital city of NZ I might add) is missing out! I’ve flown into villages barely on the map, and parked next to A380 / B777 type aircraft .. let’s do it now and reap the long term rewards.

  4. Andrew, 16. December 2018, 19:19

    Don’t misinterpret my comment about aircraft development as support for extending the runway. I just wanted to point out there is no revolutionary airliner design around the corner.

  5. Tony Jansen, 17. December 2018, 10:18

    Do any of the pro runway supporters actually understand how international transport and trade works?
    Globally big companies operating planes and ships travel on a route Northern hemisphere to southern. They bunker in the most economic way. Every tonne of additional fuel decreases the amount of cargo or passengers a voyage or flight can take, thus reducing profitability.
    No one is going to fly here first. In NZ we have two hub airports – one in each island – that act as major destination points. Smaller feeder craft then service the regions. It is simply uneconomic to fly direct to a small provincial city and airport like Wellington. The bunker/fuel consumption would make the costs unsustainable (unless you want the rate payer to subsidise each and every flight).
    Secondly we have a small economic and tourist hinterland. On that basis we cannot justify larger planes or ships calling here because there just is not the economic demand. Not enough producers to transport enough cargo out, or receive enough cargo into Wellington and her surrounding area. Similarly, not enough major tourist attractions or people to justify larger planes into or out of Wellington.
    The Singapore flights now are all half empty and we are paying up to a million dollars per annum to subsidise their losses. A complete joke. The runway extension is just Infatril using the ratepayers of Wellington to pay for upgrading their asset. Once they sell the airport they reap all the benefits.
    If we had any sense we would have developed a truly regional international airport at Paraparaumu years ago. Unlimited land and room enough to build a runway that could take all planes. We could have built a direct rail connection to service the Horuwhenua as well as Wellington region. We would have shared the cost with the other regional councils. A no brainer really. Unfortunately now that the airport land up the coast has been/is being parcelled off for commercial development, that bird has flown. It’s a pity our politicians and business leaders are so bereft of any vision. Hampered by short termism and naked greed. As always the biggest losers are the people of the Wellington region.

  6. Andrew, 17. December 2018, 13:21

    Tony, I am confused by your comment. You explain how Wellington is not viable as a destination for larger planes, then go on to state that we have missed the opportunity to create a larger airport up the coast. Even if we had a 3000m runway at Paraparaumu, we’d still have the same issue with the Singapore (and similar) flights? So you are in favour of the extension?

  7. Weeg, 27. December 2018, 20:08

    Here are some interesting facts for opponents of the Wellington Airport runway extension, who say Wellington is not a tourist destination, or no other international airline will fly here. Tourism Association figures from 2015 show international tourism has surpassed dairy and is New Zealand’s number one export earner. In 2016, tourism expenditure increased 17.1 percent ($1.7 billion) to $11.8 billion, and contributed 17.4 percent to New Zealand’s total exports. Most of the world’s major cruise companies offer cruise services to New Zealand, with more than 25 ships visiting here. In Wellington, 164,800 passengers boosted the economy by $58 million in the 2015-2016 cruise season. There are currently about 20 airlines offering international flights into Auckland. Of the 20, 11 are from Asia. Auckland Airport is now the fourth busiest in Australasia.

    Wellington has a vibrant arts and events culture, boasting many internationally famous attractions. Not to mention the continuing growth of its film industry, education for export, and weightless technology industries. It beggars belief to assert that Wellington would fail to capture a significant slice of New Zealand’s burgeoning visitor numbers, if it were possible to fly here direct from Asia.

  8. aom, 27. December 2018, 23:46

    For heaven’s sake Weeg, the selling of a city’s soul is bad for those who make its heart beat. Just ask someone from cities like Barcelona, Porto or Venice where tourists are becoming the enemy of the locals who have been displaced. If you really want to be part of the scene, try hot bedding in a garage with ten others in Queenstown, while working in a cafe for minimal wages. After that, your opinion may be worth listening to.

  9. Graham C Atkinson, 28. December 2018, 9:11

    Weeg, Singapore has a vibrant arts culture (and hosts major events on a much greater scale than Wellington) but apart from some major sporting events you wouldn’t find many visitors to Singapore giving that as their purpose for a visit. Melbourne maybe, Adelaide possibly, London & New York possibly (or more likely). But apart from the early Arts Festivals (when Nureyev and Donald McIntyre drew fans from the States and Europe) and a small percentage for Wearable Arts, Wellington isn’t an arts and events destination.

    The TIA figures have always been suspect – bulking all forms of expenditure (airfares, accommodation – usually at rack rates – and “assumed” retail) together whereas dairy export income is specific and measurable.