Wellington Scoop

Regional councillors ask for better public transport to Wellington Airport

News from Greater Wellington Regional Council
Speaking to their submission on Wellington International Airport Ltd’s expansion proposal, Regional Councillors Thomas Nash and Roger Blakeley are calling on the airport to support Wellington’s climate goals and include public and active transport in any plans it makes for the future.

Roger Blakeley, chair of Greater Wellington’s Transport Committee, said: “Shifting to bus and train travel reduces our emissions as a region and as a city and it’s critical that we build public transport into all our plans for infrastructure and development, including at the airport.”

The councillors’ submission proposed a number of conditions to help support climate goals, including free and frequent access to the airport precinct for Metlink public transport buses so that Metlink can provide a convenient, direct and affordable public transport service.

They also asked that the airport provide for the expansion of public transport services bringing more people directly to the departures and arrivals areas of the airport, including space for an improved interchange for express bus services. This interchange should provide room for public transport services to expand in the future.

The submission suggested that a proportion of revenue from car parking and vehicle access to the airport be levied to contribute to improving active and public transport travel options to the airport. It also asked for a limit to the number of private car parking spaces within the airport precinct at all times.

“To meet Wellington’s climate goals it’s imperative that public transport has free, frequent and prominent access right to the airport door,” said Thomas Nash, chair of Greater Wellington’s Climate Committee.

“Expansion is likely to mean less green space around the airport and more car traffic – a double whammy against the environment. We need to avoid that by prioritising public and active transport in any development plans. We have clearly laid out in our submission on how this can be done and it’s up to the airport to listen and take action now.”

In addition to this future-focused councillor-led submission, the Regional Council is working with Wellington International Airport Ltd on a new airport service to replace the Airport Flyer. With NZ Bus ending its commercially operated Airport Flyer service in November, the region’s public transport users have no direct access to the airport.

The public can get its say on the new service as part of the draft Wellington Regional Public Transport Plan 2021-31 which is open for consultation until 19 March.

Following consultation Metlink will work with communities in the Hutt Valley and Porirua, as well as all other parts of Greater Wellington, to ensure that regional connectivity is maintained and enhanced before the service takes flight.

© Scoop Media


  1. Ron Beernink, 1. March 2021, 19:20

    Great submission from Regional Councillors Thomas Nash and Roger Blakeley. It is horrifying that in the face of climate and transport crisis, the public transport services to the airport are made worse instead of better.

    But this goes beyond just the airport service. There has been a serious scaling back of bus services between the Hutt and Wellington in the evenings. Where before you could rely on a bus every 15-20 minutes anywhere up to 11pm, you now have to typically wait 30-35 minutes. And these services run about the same time as the trains, so not even the option to use the train if you missed the bus.

    Even though we are strong advocates for sustainable transport, we now forced to use the car more than ever when going into town in the evenings or having to get to the airport.

    And then there is the issue of still having a huge fleet of diesel buses for still a number of years.. No wonder it feels like we’re living in a 3rd world country.

  2. Dave B, 2. March 2021, 1:21

    Good work regional councillors. Good to see pressure being brought to bear on the airport company to act responsibly towards public transport access.

    Inadequate PT to the airport has long plagued Wellington. Even with the former Airport Flyer, access by PT was expensive and awkward from anywhere off the Flyer route. And now there is no PT to the airport at all. What a shambles for our capital city. Looking forward to getting this sorted.

  3. nemo, 2. March 2021, 11:53

    How about committing to a process of designing a mass rapid transit station at the airport? Whether it ends up being Light Rail, or just Lots of Buses, the Airport and the 2 councils need to start planning for a transport interchange now. It’ll take years. We need to start now.

    Some questions to pose:
    Where will the route go?
    Is it from Miramar and then through the Airport, or the other way round?
    Does it terminate, run through, or turn around?
    Does it drop off and pick up people at high level or at low level?
    The Flyer route through the Rongotai shops was a disaster for timing / needs to go straight through now.
    Are the buses going to use the Bus Tunnel, or the Highway (with all the cars stuck in traffic) or with a new tunnel route?

    Thomas Nash, Roger Blakely, I voted for you to get this process underway. The time is NOW.

  4. Cr Daran Ponter, 2. March 2021, 14:23

    @ Nemo – your questions are being addressed through the Let’s Get Wellington Moving process. Answers will start to appear later this year (I can hear the snorts of stifled laughter from here!!)

  5. Peter Steven, 2. March 2021, 16:39

    I’m really happy to see that our regional councilors have stepped to challenge the highly unreasonable and unethical status quo of the Wellington International airport company charging for public transport access.

  6. Peter S, 2. March 2021, 18:35

    Well done Councillors Nash and Blakeley for calling WIAL out on this issue. Really, we need Govt legislation to enforce provision of “decent” PT facilities at airports, that will break their insidious quest to extract as much cash as possible from the travelling public. Wgtn airport is/was heading towards being a shopping mall and car park, with a cute little runway attached. The pre-pandemic growth in air travel was getting out of hand anyway, and the pandemic situation should make us rethink the necessity of jetting around all over the planet.
    Certainly the provision of a new Metlink service to the airport is necessary, but not like the Flyer service of old, where the buses were running at very low occupancy, and a lot of the Hutt passengers were Gold Card holders coming into town. It needs a creative route layout to encompass both the airport and the rest of the peninsular, without disadvantage to either, in the same way as the number 2 route serves both Miramar and Seatoun.

  7. Ross Clark, 3. March 2021, 2:55

    Having done a lot of work recently on the use of public transport for airports (specifically, in Great Britain), may I comment here.

    * At Wellington, about 6 percent of passengers use public transport to get to or from the airport. At Edinburgh (Scotland) that value got as high as 30 percent, all of which was bus-based; it is higher now, with a tram link. One difference was that Edinburgh, like Auckland but unlike Wellington, handles a lot of inbound (tourist) traffic. These are the natural users for airport PT.

    * Mode doesn’t matter nearly as much as service quality, especially service frequency (at least every seven-eight minutes). This is partly why the shuttles work so well, as they offer door-to-door service – especially important with luggage.

    * For a deliverable service spec, I would nominate – every seven or eight minutes, with every second bus going through to Queensgate; and to concentrate on airport traffic proper, rather than being a local ‘connector’. So it doesn’t necessarily need to sludge its way through the Golden Mile, but it does need to be convenient to the big hotels.

  8. Dave B, 3. March 2021, 13:11

    Ross Clark. I doubt 6 percent of Wellington Airport passengers will be using PT now, since the only current option is to walk 600 metres to a random bus stop up Hobart Street and get the No 2 bus. Most people would have no idea how to do this.

    To me the huge amount of private-car parking and also taxi-parking that the airport has provided is a clear indication of the transport-access policy that the company has been trying to steer. And it is not just air-passengers who create airport vehicle-journeys but probably the same number again of driver-only journeys (or empty taxi-runs) made necessary by having to chauffeur air-passengers.

    You are right that the quality of airport PT is important if it is to capture mode-share. The Airport Flyer tried to do this with a 10 minute peak-frequency at one stage, but the high price of the service detracted from it (Gold-Card holders excepted), as did the slowness of service at peak times, the thinned-out frequency at off-peak times, and the early finishing-time before some of the later flights were in. Also connectivity with trains was a matter of hit-and-miss, particularly off-peak, meaning that a journey to further-away parts of the region could be fraught.

    To work properly, airport PT needs to be totally integrated into the regional PT system and ideally, in an alternative evolution of history, our rail system would have been extended to the airport when it would have been easy to do so, and frequent trains would now connect to all rail-served parts of the region. For instance, passengers arriving at Geneva Airport are offered a choice of trains direct to most other centres in the region, as well as tram and bus connections locally. A free ticket valid for 80 minutes to anywhere within the city is offered to all arriving passengers. What a contrast to Wellington! (and Geneva’s population is not hugely greater).

  9. Keith Flinders, 3. March 2021, 13:48

    Ross Clark: If only 6% of passengers use public transport to get to/from the airport, why should the rest of the public be paying to subsidise an uneconomic service capable of moving 400 passengers (using your suggestion) each way every hour? As a Airport Flyer bus driver reported, the service was not well supported by fare paying passengers.

    When I lived in Karori I found that getting two buses to Broadway Miramar, and then a short walk was not much of a bind. Nowadays intending Karori plane passengers just need the one bus. In many overseas airports one has to walk many times that distance inside the confines of the facility.

    If one can afford to fly, then shuttles for ground transportation offer an alternative method, surely, with the option to walk a short distance to existing PT services.

  10. Thomas Nash, 3. March 2021, 14:14

    The Metlink public bus network has been unable to access the airport because a private commercial service was operating the route. Whether the airport levies a charge on the new Metlink public service is up to the airport. If it does, ticket prices would be higher for passengers. [via twitter]

  11. Benoit Pette, 3. March 2021, 14:26

    The Airport is wanting to expand, add more planes to Wellington’s airspace, and mechanically increase emissions. Yet, Thomas Nash and Roger Blakeley are interested in ensuring we can get there by bus. Shouldn’t they oppose the expansion first? This submission is kind of implying GWRC is happy with the fact there is an expansion, like it’s a fait-accompli. I expect a way stronger, firmer, clearer message from GWRC (and WCC) disapproving, opposing, condemning this expansion.

  12. Thomas Nash, 3. March 2021, 14:30

    The submission definitely doesn’t imply that. GWRC is not taking a position on the airport expansion per se. It simply comments on the potential impact of expansion on road traffic emissions. Any GWRC submission requires broad support from council, which this submission has. There are many questions about the airport’s expansion plans but any development should ensure it doesn’t add to road traffic emissions. The airport can help here by committing to allow free, frequent, prominent access for public transport to its precinct.

  13. Conor Hill, 3. March 2021, 14:47

    The airport wants $75 million out of the WCC, but won’t let our buses stop there. Shocking behaviour from what is in essence a giant carpark.

  14. Tamatha Paul, 3. March 2021, 14:53

    FYI I’ll be putting forward a proposal to remove the $75m loan from WCC for the airport runway extension tomorrow. [via twitter]

  15. Hel, 3. March 2021, 19:04

    I can’t help but reflect on the irony of the Regional Council espousing on public transport when single handedly they delivered bustastrophe, destroyed the trolley bus network and are a major player in the LGWM debacle.

  16. Ross Clark, 5. March 2021, 0:08

    Hi all, thanks for the feedback – appreciated.

    * I am no fan of the airport runway extension – it’s bad at every level (and for the avoidance of doubt, I like aeroplanes, and flying). The airport company would be much better to wait for aircraft technology to get to the point that direct flights to Asia were possible within the existing runway length.

    * DaveB – airports provide lots of parking and taxi space because that’s what their users want. Those services also make a lot of money for most airports. In terms of connectivity to the wider region, I am more a far of direct bus services, as opposed to bus-to-rail services; and specifically, because there is little scope to improve frequencies in the Wellington regional network.

    * Although this is something for a separate discussion, direct buses from central Lower Hutt and central Porirua would provide improved connectivity to those parts of the Wellington CBD which are beyond a ten-minute walk from the railway station. This would work well, I think, for the offpeak market; with the peak market, the bulk of the employment in the Wellington CBD is within a ten-minute walk of the railway station area anyway.