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“Unsound assumptions” for spending $90m

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The Wellington City Council’s plan to spend $90million to help pay for a longer runway at the airport is facing damning criticism from airline operators.

The Board of Airline Representatives New Zealand is reported this morning as saying the council’s methodology used to work out the supposed economic benefits is flawed. The DomPost reports that the organisation – representing 20 airlines that fly into New Zealand – has commissioned a peer review which states that the economic impact assessment “overstates the benefits while overlooking costs”.

Many of the assumptions used are unsound. That includes the idea that people would wait 48 hours to catch a direct flight rather than adding a stopover in Auckland, and that tourists would want to land in Wellington, requiring a “figure of eight” to explore the country, rather than starting at one end and going down. “It is difficult to see why an extended Wellington Airport runway would be an attractive destination to long-haul carriers, given the infrastructure that already exists elsewhere in New Zealand.”

Further doubts about the runway extension are voiced by the organisation’s executive director John Beckett.

“Wellington’s wanting to boost itself, and if it’s got $300m to do that, there could well be better ways to spend it than on the runway extension.” Given the requirement for long-haul carriers to fill 80 per cent of their seats, it was unlikely one would be willing to come to Wellington. “We’re not aware of any airline expressing an interest in flying long-haul into Wellington . . . Our concern is that there’s a potentially huge cost either to the ratepayers or to the traveller.”

We’ll pay say mayors
Don’t pay, say ratepayers
Unanswered questions about a longer runway