Wellington Scoop

Tourism growth statistics support runway extension, says Justin Lester

News from WCC
Compelling figures for growth in international tourists presented to a City Council meeting today show there is a clear reason to continue planning for a runway extension at Wellington Airport, according to Wellington deputy mayor Justin Lester.

Canadian-based airline consultancy InterVISTA presented to the Council’s Governance, Planning and Finance Committee, chaired by Cr Lester.

He says InterVISTA’s Route Development Director Alex Welch showed demand for international connections into and out of Wellington has grown significantly – with 8 percent growth in the past year.

Forecasts by MBIE for international passenger numbers to New Zealand also show an expected increase to 3.8 million from the current level of 2.9 million over the next five years.

“A runway extension at Wellington would enable the Capital and central New Zealand to take advantage of that demand,” he says.

InterVISTA confirmed there were already sustainable and profitable international long haul routes to Asia and the market would get stronger in the future. A Singapore-Wellington link is predicted to attract the highest level of growth with other services connecting Wellington with Kuala Lumpur, Los Angeles, and Dubai via Australia.

Cr Lester says the city has high levels of growth in passenger numbers and a growth in future demand would be stimulated by a runway extension.

“In 1968 when a similar runway extension was proposed to support direct flights to Australia, critics tried to knock it back,” he says. “Wellington now has 65 international flights a week and we are heading toward a million international passengers.

“InterVISTA has shown that Wellington has experienced the fastest increase of any major New Zealand airport over the past 10 years and that the city’s long haul market will continue to climb.

“I believe the figures presented by InterVISTA give us comfort in terms of the work under way on economic investigations relating to the 300-metre runway extension.”

Wishing for a longer runway
How much? Who’s paying?


  1. Dr Sea Rotmann, 23. October 2015, 3:35

    Wow. Well done, City Council, wasting more of our money flying in some Canadian mob who tell us the opposite of what our own tourism industry tell us! And yes of course, nothing changed since the 60s, so if we look back to the 1960s, we can simply forecast into the 2060s! This is the level of integrity and rational thinking that seems to have gone into this political pet project so far. The Moa Point residents, regarded as the the most severely affected by Council and currently having to fight back Airport buy-out plans, were meant to be updated fortnightly by Dep Mayor Lester. That never happened, neither were we told about this presentation, so it’s great to find out via the media, yet again. It is clear that this Council and the airport want to push this through hell or high water, ignore logic and facts, and the community’s wishes and throw hundreds of millions of public dollars at a White Elephant. Where is the airline? Where is the long-haul flight route that doesn’t stop off in Australia (where we can already go)? Not even Auckland flies straight to Dubai yet we can expect flights going there from Wellington? I call BS.

  2. BDBinc, 23. October 2015, 8:23

    “Tourism growth” shows that we don’t need a runway extension.

  3. Esjay, 23. October 2015, 8:31

    What has 1968 got to do with the present day mode of tourism and an extended runway? Travel between Europe and NZ was mainly on the Northern Star and the Southern Cross! Someone needs to get real! In fact as I recall the noisy Boeing 737 100s and 200s were about to operate out of Wellington on a runway that had been constructed for propeller-driven aircraft.. Critics were more concerned about the situation of a noisy airport in the heart of suburbia than Wellington being a tourist mecca for trans Tasman operations. The belief held by the deputy Mayor that Wellington will be a Long Haul destination from the result of (“Short Haul”) traffic of 3 to 4 hour duration as the catalyst for extending the current runway, is pure fantasy.

  4. Wellington Commuter, 23. October 2015, 10:43

    Build it and the tourists will come. Yes Wellington has heard (and done) that before … the year was in 1964 and it was called the Overseas Passenger Terminal.

  5. Harry F, 23. October 2015, 12:14

    Justin Lester is a fantasist. But to be fair we should include in the mix Celia Wade-Brown and Andy Foster! They need to go at the next election (couldn’t come sooner in my opinion) and get some straight shooters into the Council who are actually genuine about the future of Wellington. Bring on the elections.

  6. Hel, 23. October 2015, 20:19

    Poor Council just can’t win can they. Dr Rotmann hammers them for not providing information and then when they do hammers them for wasting money. I suppose references to the last runway extension are to illustrate that the naysayers will only be happy if we revert Wellington to the grey drab city it was through the 70s. Hard to criticise the council as not being genuine about the future of the city when that is what the runway extension is about.

  7. Dr Sea Rotmann, 24. October 2015, 2:05

    Poor Council? They have very clear instructions in the Long Term Plan not to commit any more ratepayer money unless they have a committed long-haul airline, a business plan that stacks up, clear knowledge on climate change implications etc. Now the airport is saying, sorry, no airline will commit until we build it, you just have to trust us because look how great it worked out when we extended the runway in the 1960s? I mean, you MUST be kidding. Why on earth would you throw public money at a private company with nothing but lame promises and fantastical statements – when they can’t even manage to show that any more planes will actually fly here. Wellington to Dubai non-stop? Not under the current laws of physics!

  8. Build it now!, 24. October 2015, 18:47

    Dr Sea – you are clearly not understanding the material being put out by the airport and there is a lot. All the material I have read has shown a Wellington service to Dubai via Australia as all the Emirates flights to New Zealand do. They are called 5th freedom services – look them up sometime. The runway is not long enough for the Emirates aircraft to land and so the city is missing out on such services.
    You must be more informed than the airport or the council or their aviation experts as to the feasibility of long haul services. Could you please point me to the evidence or study you have completed that shows why it won’t work? Air NZ saying they won’t fly it (because of their Auckland hub) and other airlines being silent is not evidence.

  9. CC, 24. October 2015, 23:25

    If the extension of the runway is such a great deal, why are the ratepayers expected to front up instead of wildly enthused investors? Also, where are the international airlines that are supposedly crawling over each other to provide services to and from Wellington? Was the Mayor trying to flog off the concept of international investment as part of the recent tour to Beijing? What became of that part of the junket? It is obvious that the local financially-endowed clique think they have found a money tree down the garden path of socialism and have willing airpoints collectors to create fairytales of public good to give wings to their dreams of avoiding brief stop-overs at well established NZ hubs.

  10. Esjay, 25. October 2015, 10:06

    Build it now: Wellington Airport already services flights to Australia for connections elsewhere. As a 2/3rd shareholder, surely the Airport Company should take responsibility for caring for its potential services. Why should ratepayers be concerned about Emirates’ ability to fly to Wellington or not?

  11. Build it now!, 25. October 2015, 11:53

    Esjay. See below – nuff said.

    “Based on conservative estimates, the Emirates service has contributed more than $1.2bn of visitor spend over the past 10 years, so there is no doubt about the value of its service to Christchurch, Canterbury and the South Island. The daily flights bring visitors from a number of destinations worldwide to the South Island, as well as taking South Islanders to explore the world and transporting some of our best produce to foreign markets.”

  12. Extort the ratepayer not!, 25. October 2015, 18:11

    That is a biased estimate for Christchurch released by those with a conflict of interest (and lacking a cost benefit analysis). Nuffing of value said. Nuffing in it for us. It is insane that corporations now expect the ratepayers to fund their private investments. The Wellington tourism industry is doing well.

  13. Build it now!, 25. October 2015, 20:03

    It may well be biased and on the high side. However if the value was a quarter of what they stated that would be equivalent to a $300m runway spend – delivered by only one airline and over only 10 years (the runway may be at risk in year 5000 when sea level rise gets to 10 metres).
    Yes the Wellington tourism industry may be doing well but why can’t it do better and attract a different type of traveler?. And the benefits of the extension are not just to attract more visitors. Contrary to popular belief, visitors spend significantly more money away from the airport than at the airport so it seems only fair that the rest of the community who benefits should contribute.

  14. Bin it!, 26. October 2015, 7:41

    @Bin: you are grasping, that is another snake oil sales pitch of a madeup estimate that is meaningless. Our tourism industry is doing quite well;-haven’t you heard the facts? As someone already pointed out,- let private investors and/or the airline who will get some benefit and income on this fund it if they want it. The wealthy freeloaders can fund their runway extension investment themselves and pay it off in ten years.

  15. Dr Sea Rotmann, 26. October 2015, 8:30

    Build it Now: the Tourism 2025 study makes it clear that the airline business is extremely competitive and has very low benefit margins – and that NZ is a very difficult country to attract long-haul airlines to. There are the many examples of Australian and NZ airports that couldn’t attract the promised long-haul airlines or lost them with huge public losses, as they usually had to be subsidised in the first place. Without a business case and an airline, the public is asked to just ‘trust’ the airport and some Canadian consultancy which was paid by the airport (thus releasing a study solely benefiting the airport and ignoring any contrary evidence) – when the airport is clearly the one set to win either way. The airport doesn’t need an airline flying long-haul – if they get the public to pay for their runway extension, they have an increased asset base with which they can hike landing fees and taxes – plus, a greater shot at hocking the airport off after it’s completed. No skin in the game for WIAL if an airline ever lands here from Singapore or not. Why do we need a runway extension for a 5th freedom service when we can already fly to Australia, which is the stop-over anyway? If you look at the WCC’s review of the InterVistas report, you can see that Airbiz warned that they hugely inflated the intake of potential Wellington travelers – by making Wellington’s intake 1.1million people when it’s more like a tenth of that who ever travel long-haul. And if you think it’ll take until the year 5000 before the airport’s viability will be threatened by rising sea levels and increased extreme storm events, you are obviously a climate change and reality denier.

  16. Anabel, 26. October 2015, 14:56

    @”B. i.n !” It’s really this simple: the ratepayers don’t need a runway extension. And we don’t need the political jive or the fictitious fabrications. We just need the truth.