Wellington Scoop

Council agrees to spend $1m to help airport seek approval for longer runway

The Wellington City Council voted yesterday to spend $1million to help Wellington Airport apply for resource consent to lengthen its runway by 300 metres. The council hopes that a longer runway – which would take five to seven years to build at a cost of $300million – would help attract long-haul flights to the city.

Media release from WCC – May 23
Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown said today that a runway extension is crucial to attracting long-haul international flights to the Capital City and will grow the economy of the lower North Island. The Wellington City Council proposes to contribute half of the estimated $2 million cost of putting the proposal through the RMA approvals process.

“Wellington International Airport is Wellington’s key strategic asset and gateway to the world. It’s appropriate that Council helps kick-start the process to get this major infrastructure project moving,” she says.

“I endorse Council contributing to the costs of the RMA process. The short and long term benefits to Wellington of a runway extension are significant. BERL calculates the direct economic benefit to the region at more than $43 million a year with more than 300 post-construction jobs created,” she says.

“Council’s Wellington 2040: Smart Capital vision includes a significant focus on Wellington being a connected city, both physical and virtual. This initiative will deliver a major improvement for the Capital’s connectivity – we need flights as well as bytes!”

Economic Development Portfolio Leader Jo Coughlan says “Long-haul international air connections – most likely to South East Asia – are considered essential to support economic growth in the region.

“Long-haul connectivity is key to the Wellington Regional Strategy and the City Council’s own Economic Development Strategy.

“Direct flights to Asia would major opportunities for the likes of the business and education sectors. The potential economic benefit from doubling the number of international students in Wellington alone is estimated at $70 million per annum,” says Cr Coughlan.

Mayor Wade-Brown says the Capital’s creative and digital sectors are flourishing. “Direct international air links from Wellington to destinations further than Australia will be a huge boost for the Wellington region as it will be easier to do business in the Capital.”

She says an RMA approvals process would establish with certainty the ability to extend the runway and the cost to complete the project, and enable the business case for investment and the funding options for the investment required to be finalised.

Wellington International Airport CEO Steve Sanderson says: “Over 1,000 people fly in and out of Wellington to a long haul destination through another airport.

“The highly mobile and affluent market will support daily long haul flights and improving Wellington’s international connectivity will deliver the economic growth the region is crying out for,” he says.

The Wellington City Council will consider a contribution of up to $1 million toward the consenting process necessary at a full Council meeting on 29 May. If approved, the Council contribution would be funded from under-spending in the 2012/13 financial year.

The runway extension was included within the airport’s 2030 Master Plan. The length of the extension required to enable long-haul flights to land and depart Wellington with full loads is about 300 metres and would involve reclamation into Evans Bay.

A report for Councillors says that to move this project from being a conceptual part of the Master Plan, and enable detailed design work, costings, business cases and funding options to be developed, WIAL believes it is necessary to seek the necessary consents for the project.

The process would involve a range of workstreams including engineering and aviation design; coastal processes; landscaping; traffic design; noise and recreation impacts; archaeology and cultural effects; alternatives; and consultation.

WIAL says proceeding with the consent process is a necessary first step to lift the proposed extension from a conceptual level to a definable project. This would provide certainty around the ability to deliver the project and enable work to be completed on the business case and funding of any extension


  1. Ross Clark, 24. May 2013, 1:27

    There are two things they can do in the meantime

    * Leverage off the Qantas/Emirates alliance to promote the cause of access to Europe and many other places, via Dubai.

    * Promote AirNZ flights straight through to the International terminal at AKL, rather than the dragged-out arrangements we have at the moment. This would speed up the connections a lot – people arriving from Asia would then transfer onto a direct flight to WLG and clear border/customs there, rather than the hassle which AKL is turning into.

  2. Ellie, 24. May 2013, 10:43

    The fuel to run all this has passed its peak production. Before spending millions fighting its own residents and building white elephants, perhaps the future energy source should be secured first

  3. Ian Apperley, 24. May 2013, 13:46

    Must be election year.

    Basically this is another hot air, waffle spout, from Wade-Brown.

    It promises nothing and gets her looking like she’s doing something.

    It would be better, if she actually had a plan to make this happen instead of bleating on about “endorsing” something. Hell, I “endorse” the airport extension, but it means nothing.

    Get on with it and stop waffling.

  4. Dave, 24. May 2013, 16:10

    I thought WIAL was going to announce several long haul deals some months ago? Wasn’t Jo Coughlan getting all excited? Looks like it’s turning into a bottomless pit for ratepayers funds.
    Let’s be real, exactly what flight options are around?
    Perth? Bali? Jakarta? Singapore? KL? Bangkok? Hong Kong? Macau? Any Chinese city you care to name, sister-city or not. Shanghai? Tokyo? Seoul? Ho Chi Minh City? Taipei, Honolulu? Nadi? Raro? Apia? Nuku’alofa? Niue? Pago Pago? Papeete? Santiago? Buenos Aires? Sao Paulo?
    All economically better served from Auckland or Christchurch, both 60 minutes or less or away.
    What does that leave?
    Port Moresby, Honiara, Vila, Noumea, Guam, Cairns, Townsville, Rockhampton, Newcastle, Wollongong, Canberra, Hobart, Adelaide, Darwin.
    Not many likely city pairs there for Wellington.
    Maybe Canberra-Wellington, with Adelaide-Wellington a poor second, and Hobart-Wellington a very distant third.
    Wellington-Rockhampton and Noumea-Wellington in our winter only once a week starting with charters [we get sun, they get snow]
    Hardly long haul.
    I wouldn’t invest in Hobart-Wellington; Adelaide-Wellington would be once a week if lucky; Canberra-Wellington could be 2-3 times a week if you think it’s a good idea to export our politicians/bureaucrats and import theirs……. but mostly at taxpayers’ expense.
    Better to improve connections with Brisbane/Sydney/Melbourne and link with airlines such as Emirates [on the way], Air Berlin, Philippine Airlines for quicker links to Europe & Philippines.
    Short haul maybe a few city-pairs, long haul, forget it. Not economic for passengers or freight.
    No, it’s a pipe dream and we, the ratepayers, are again paying for it. Cheaper to buy some one way first class fares and send WCC councilors away for good on any flight that gets them away from our wallets.

  5. CC, 30. May 2013, 7:53

    Great, the ratepayers are being fleeced while Infratil will contribute little but will reap the profits. The $1m is of course just a start. It seems the Council has well and truly dumped the light rail option which would advantage everyone, so that the commercial sector might make some extra income – if all the stars happen to align.

  6. Rosamund, 30. May 2013, 8:45

    Extending the runway into Evans Bay will be a substantial geo-tech endeavour. This project was explored in the early 90s by WIAL, when it was resolved to “let it lie”.
    Extending a runway that rests on reclaimed, seismically and geologically challenged land into a harbour will be inordinately costly, with the cost of the traffic disruption alone during any construction phase needing to be factored in.
    The people of Wellington own just 33% of WIAL. The rest is owned by Infratil. Surely any support given by the ratepayers for a consent application should be put to all of the citizens as a matter of significance.
    This proposal is an expensive kite on which various people want to fly their re-election methinks.

  7. SteveW, 30. May 2013, 13:31

    Good thinking Ross. As Dave has pointed out, most destinations are available from Auckland or Christchurch – the only problem is the 2 boring hours at Auckland airport waiting to catch your international flight. I’m sure the guys at Wellington Airport would much prefer that we spend our money here rather than AKL. Being able to check our bags in at WLG and transferring straight though to the International terminal without having to wait 2 hours would be ideal.

  8. John Clarke, 30. May 2013, 13:54

    Ian Apperley – You’re right, it must be election year when the right-wing blogosphere has to paint the voting of $1 million for resource consents as “doing nothing”. What did you expect – Wade-Brown would be getting out there with a spade to start digging the foundations herself?

    If it had been Kerry Prendergast making the same announcement, both you and the chamber of commerce would have been wetting yourselves with your excitement at the wonderful regional leadership that was being displayed. Still, I can understand your frustrations – at least Kerry had a few clues as mayor.

  9. Helene Ritchie, 30. May 2013, 15:48

    I agree. This is fraught with multiple adverse risk – not the least being environmental, feasiiblity, economic, financial. To date, the Wellington City Council has never ever actually resolved to support the extension of the runway of Wellington International Airport. Instead, the Council itself agreed last night, as if it had made that decision, to join another party in a resource consent application without any transparent decision to actually support the project.

    No-one has come forward to fund the proposed extension. The Airport Company has said it won’t/can’t (officer report)..that the business case simply would not stack up.

    That’s obvious. If it did fund it, it would have to put plane landing charges, carparking and concessions charges up so much that no-one could afford to fly!! No planes could afford to land!

    The “business community” (whoever that is) said the runway extension was essential for the economy but made no offer to fund it, or even to suggest who might! There is always the Government to fund it……or is there?? The only other alternative for funding is rates, but no-one consulted the ratepayers on this. Of course it should have been put to the ratepayers, as a significant project, because they might well end up funding this $300m plus project – but the Council did not bother to ask them if they want to or can!!??

    The project as presented to councillors sudddenly became priority number one, and one million dollars was miraculously found to begin it by applying for a resource consent. This is a decision made by Council (two opposed) on the hoof (with three days’ notice) without proper analysis or consultation and with high risk for Council and ratepayers.

    If it does not go ahead, another million dollars of ratepayer funds will be down the drain, along with the already waste of $1.4 million of so-called “long haul” attraction fund used to send PWT employees around the world to chat up airlines without result. The consequences are and will be many.

    Helene Ritchie

  10. Dave, 30. May 2013, 19:04

    Well said. As a matter of interest, who were the two councilors who voted against the $1m debacle? And, more importantly, the names of the other councilors prepared, in my opinion, to play fast and loose with ratepayers’ funds? The $1m should be split among them and deducted from their election campaign budgets. That should keep them quiet. In my opinion, there is no business case to be currently built for long haul flights from Asia to Wellington: WIAL knows it, WCC staff know it, the business community knows it, but in my opinion, Infratil needs urgent cash and sees ratepayers as a bottomless pit to be strip-mined to get it. [Ritchie and Pepperell were the two councillors who voted against the $1m payment.]

  11. Ian Apperley, 30. May 2013, 19:18

    Hi “John Clarke” and your new friend Helene.
    If you read the time frame of the comments, John, you’ll see that the “mayor” (if you can call her that) had done absolutely nothing at that point in time other than to “endorse” the idea. So grow up, do your research, and figure it out before you blow off. As for right wing, again, do your research, and figure it out. As for Helene, she’s been hiding up in the Northern suburbs for the last four years and has suddenly decided to find her voice over this issue. Zero facts, doesn’t even represent this part of the city, has done nothing to stop the social impact (as I’ve pointed out before), has protected the golfing patrons in Miramar, and quite frankly, as a resident of forty years, should just get her nose out of it.
    So you, John, and you Helene, should butt out of it, and let us, the residents out here, have our say.

  12. John Clarke, 31. May 2013, 14:03

    Hi “Ian Apperley” – and thanks for the gratuitous insults, which always add so much to the public debate. Have you considered getting your medication adjusted?

    Anyway, as I recall your local councillors have all been in favour of the runway extension – probably because everyone knows it’s a great idea for Wellington’s economy. So much for “having your say”.

    My view is the sooner the better, but the extension doesn’t really go far enough (ha ha). To make it more attractive to the Asian airlines I think we should be lifting the noise limits and removing the nighttime curfew so it’s easier to schedule flights and carry full fuel loads. And because I don’t live on the flight path, I’ll be voting for any councillor who promotes the idea, all in the interests of growing Wellington’s economy of course.

  13. Maximus, 31. May 2013, 20:57

    I think a few of the commenters here should just calm down and think about the facts, and a bit of history. In Hong Kong, in 1991/92, the HK government voted to build a new airport, off shore, on the site of an existing mountainous island. At about the same time, the British government started to talk about Terminal 5 at Heathrow.
    In Hong Kong, they carved off the top of the hill and pushed it into the sea, and repeated this till the mountain was completely gone, and the recycled earth now formed a large runway. The airport was built, completed, and operational by 1997 I think, whereas in the UK, they still hadn’t got to the end of he enquiry into whether they could even start or not.
    The Hong Kong economy is booming, due to its “Can Do” attitude. Britain is still down in the dumps.

    Sadly, we follow the British model, not the Hong Kong way, and so we are doomed to spend years talking, and little action will result, rather than just acting and allowing our part of he world to prosper. I therefore fully support the decision to get the bullshit and the inevitable Resource Consent issues out of the way. Just do it.

  14. Nora, 31. May 2013, 22:42

    Get real Maximus – Hong Kong population 7.072 million = one international airport. New Zealand population 4.405 million = two international airports. Do we need or can we afford a third?

  15. peter@southwelly, 1. June 2013, 10:59

    I think this weekend (Sat 1/6) has highlighted the growing infrastructure problems this city has. Personally, I’m in favour of the airport extension. But I think it’s time Wellington started to temper its desire to spend things on ‘nice to haves’ and instead focused on some of the practicalities such as repairing and replacing the infrastructure. Too often Council and ratepayers have buried their heads in the sands preferring to focus on what’s trendy, or vote catching. We’ve known for ages that much of the pipework in and around Wellington needs replacing. Disgraceful.

  16. Dave, 1. June 2013, 15:55

    I think NZ has the following international airports: Auckland, Hamilton, Rotorua, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown, of which AKL, WLG, CHC and ZQN are the best known and most widely used. We must remember though that if NZ was laid on its side, it would stretch from London-Athens, so our long distances encourage a larger number of airports than tiny states like Singapore, Macau or Hong Kong. Los Angeles has several international airports within the metro region, not just LAX.

  17. Maximus, 3. June 2013, 8:10

    Nora – Hong Kong also has over a million people living in a area equivalent to the length of Lambton Quay and Willis St – it is, as you note, very different in population and physical layout. The point I was trying to make (evidently unsuccessfully) was that they are also politically very different – the decision was made and they acted on it immediately, rather than waffle on for years. (Of course, the political system they have does not allow the populace the amount of freedom that we have here – over there it is just an appointed Legislative Council who make the decisions, and the people who just suck it up and live with it.)
    But instead, we will no doubt commission consultants to write reports, looking at water quality, soil conditions, shellfish rights, breeding patterns of migrating terns, voting patterns of ancestral taniwha, and the cultural effects on children whose school bus route passes by the building site; all before, after 23 years of discussion, we find there is no reason why we didn’t just go for it in the first place.
    It’s a pretty simple process if we want to. Decide whether we want it extending further north, or further south, and then go for it. A longer runway will benefit us all.