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by Lindsay Shelton
I went out to Wellington Airport the other afternoon to meet a friend arriving on one of the Sydney flights. You have to wait for international visitors in a cramped and gloomy space, in no way reflecting the airport’s ambition to attract long-haul flights from Asia, and in no way showing visitors that they’ve arrived in a city which claims to be the best little capital.

I thought of this unpleasant experience when I saw the airport’s fullpage advertisement in the DomPost, promoting improvements that are being planned. No improvements, apparently, to the space where we welcome overseas visitors.

And one of the improvements lacks credibility. It’s the one where the airport announces its plan “to reduce congestion from through traffic and to help ensure everyone makes their flights on time.” How are they going to do this? Apparently by installing traffic barrier arms at both ends of Stewart Duff Drive. The airport’s management wants us to believe that barrier arms (which have been strongly opposed by local residents) will make the traffic flow more efficiently. Does anyone believe them?

Some of the other revamps will be more acceptable. More space for dropping-off travellers will be useful, and ten minutes free parking is better than the five minutes which the airport first proposed.

But no improvements have been advertised for the awful international arrivals space. In the afternoons, there’s never enough room for all the waiting crowds, and the numbers are substantial because both Sydney flights are scheduled to arrive at the same time – doubling the numbers who have to file through the door from the customs and immigration hall (which is also cramped). It’s one of the world’s most depressing welcomes for international visitors. And outside, the space occupied by lines of taxis is equally bleak. People search for machines to pay the parking fees, and then puzzle about the complexities of paying and collecting a receipt.

To be fair, the departures floor of the airport gives a much better impression, with high ceilings, big windows, plenty of natural light and a spacious atmosphere (especially since one of the duty-free stores has disappeared). It also offers a positive welcome to travellers arriving on domestic flights.

But the ambiance of the ground floor is a mean and dispiriting welcome to the capital city. If the airport is serious about trying to attract flights from Asia, then it should be giving its international visitors are much more acceptable first glimpse of Wellington.

Read also
The airport’s undemocratic barriers

13 comments:

  1. Ross Clark, 31. July 2013, 23:09

    When the ‘new’ terminal was opened in 1999, international traffic volumes were about 450,000 pax per year (3.5m per year total through the airport). The airport itself is now managing around 5.2m passengers per year and there has been a huge increase in international traffic; it is now around 730,000 international passengers per year.

    I am not sure how much scope they have to do this!

     
  2. Stan Andis, 1. August 2013, 18:54

    We’ve asked the WCC to buy back the land back from WIAL, financed by its shareholder’s return, so that there can continue to be a barrier free road in each direction for through-traffic. But the council has never made any public statement since the infamous “WCC is relaxed about this” from Mr Mclean.

     
  3. Ross Clark, 2. August 2013, 0:00

    If someone can confirm this for me – I imagine that the barrier arms, while they would let traffic *out of* the airport area easily enough, would prevent too much traffic getting *into* the airport area at peak times, in order to help the internal traffic flows work better. This would, I imagine, be especially applied to traffic approaching from the south (Moa Point) which would otherwise cut through the airport on their way up to Calabar Rd, Broadway, or the Miramar area.

    How much through traffic or golf course traffic is there, anyway? I can well imagine the barriers getting in the way of people wanting to get tino the airport from the north (Calabar Rd) entry at peak times. That may be by far the biggest problem.

     
  4. Stan Andis, 2. August 2013, 18:12

    Ross, Stewart Duff Drive has always been considered as a public road. Never at any stage was there any indication that it was Private property. You must also consider that WIAL made the decision to cut-off public access prior to any consultation. It must also be considered that the Draconian decision by WIAL removed the right of freedom to all those members of the community who considered the road as Wellington City Council standard access.

     
  5. Mareta@Strathmore, 3. August 2013, 2:10

    Stan, I normally wouldn’t comment on what is happening, politically, but what is happening with the Airport will affect the whole of the eastern suburbs. You, sir, deserve everyone’s respect and support.
    When National sold the Wellington Airport to Infratil, many understood it was with the understanding that the ring road – Stewart Duff Drive – would remain in public access. Infratil have reneged on that agreement. Are we surprised? No !! They have always been lousy corporate citizens – both in the air, and as transport providers. We shouldn’t be surprised given the ‘hands-off’ approach of the Wellington City Council. Even though they have had a sitting Councillor and a former Mayor on the board, the interests of the City have come second. Only in Wellington. Such second rate treatment. No wonder John Key has had such disparaging remarks. Celia, Andy, Iona and the rest have given the bird to the people of the eastern suburbs. They do not deserve our support.

     
  6. Stan Andis, 4. August 2013, 19:43

    Mareta, thanks a million for your kind words. All I can ask is that you tell your friends what is going on, and for them to voice their disapproval. Election time for councillors will be taking place very soon, so now is the time to gain some form of committment from candidates at electoral meetings.Perhaps they will be able to inform the community why Airport management have extended the time for passing through the barriers from 5 minutes to 10 minutes. Could it be that the revised plan costing at least $5.1 million is already a design failure?

     
  7. Ross Clark, 5. August 2013, 20:27

    Stan – I appreciate that Stewart Duff Dr has been regarded as a public road, but getting an understanding on the *numbers* of vehicles which would be affected by this measure is necessary as well. You will help your case if you can show that the volume of ‘through’ traffic is significant.

     
  8. Stan Andis, 6. August 2013, 9:50

    Ross, you may well be correct. But be aware that we were not consulted prior to the decision being made. WIAL claim (by means of a secret survey) that through traffic is at fault for creating congestion. Never at any stage has WIAL blamed the inept design of its road layout. They also “tested” the time required as being 5 minutes to pass through the barrier system. When construction had not commenced, one cannot understand how they were able to reach this conclusion.

     
  9. JC, 6. August 2013, 13:26

    Just because you “understood” it was a public road does that mean that you should have a right of consultation?

    is it possible for the National Party to “reneg” on an “agreement” that was never in place?

    You are fighting to protect rights that you never had. Sure, WIAL allowing the public to use that private road has been great, but that doesn’t mean they should then be bound to have that limitation placed on their land forever (or have any obligation to consult). To do so would be an unjustifiable assault on private property rights which none of us should encourage lest we be bound by the same rules with respect to our own private property.

    I agree that the arrivals areas for international visitors could do with a revamp though!

     
  10. Ron M Oliver, 6. August 2013, 14:36

    From reading the recommendation in the advertisement, I assume that barriers placed in the way of passengers who wish to travel on flights should be driven through so they are not delayed by such obstacles. Would it not be cheaper to have none?

     
  11. Stan Andis, 6. August 2013, 19:10

    JC, the Wellington Airport Act 1990 and By Law gave WIAL powers beyond any other organisation – the National Govt included. Draconian decisions are only carried out when reputations are irrelevant. Integrity and dignity go out the window, especially when profit and max return to the shareholder are the sole drivers to virtual dictatorship. When Stewart Duff Drive was created, it was to the benefit of thousands of Wellingtonians. Never at any stage were the public and the neighbours offered the courtesy to be informed of the proposed changes. The Wellington City Council is bound by the Local Govt Act, and WIAL to itself.

     
  12. Ross Clark, 7. August 2013, 21:51

    Stan – my reasoning is this:

    If a lot of the congestion in the airport precinct is being caused by significant volumes of through traffic, then that helps your case to keep this traffic as separate as possible from the airport traffic, perhaps by keeping Stewart Duff Dr completely separate from airport movements – and it puts the acid on the airport company to sort out its internal traffic management. If little of the congestion in the airport precinct is being caused by through traffic, which I suspect is the case, then it means that the number of people affected by this measure is not great. Sorry, you won’t be able to make your case without a firm grip of what the traffic volumes actually are.

     
  13. Stan Andis, 8. August 2013, 9:45

    Ross, I take your point:

    Given the opportunity and in a normal world, we could plead our case with sensible argument. However, in this case, WIAL hired a Transport Consultant who undertook a traffic study by monitoring number plates as vehicles passed through Stewart Duff Drive. This study remains confidential to WIAL who made their decision to implement barriers solely on the basis of air traveller traffic alone. The announcement of the Barrier system was made without any public input. It was only after the announcement of its decision that WIAL interviewed affected parties. Discussions on road design were by then a closed shop. The only apparent avenue open to the public, it seems to me, is that the Wellington City Council as shareholder should step up and take up the case on behalf of its ratepayers. It remains a mystery why there has been silent pictures from all councillors in spite of the public outcry.