Wellington Scoop

In only five years? The airport’s runway campaign reaches new heights

airport to everywhere 2

by Lindsay Shelton
Wellington Airport’s overpowering campaign in support of extending its runway has reached new heights this morning, with this advertisement showing flights from here to … almost everywhere.

The advertisement claims that the big globe shows “our world from 2020.”

But the claim is questionable – read the small print to get a more accurate description:

These flight paths are indictative (sp) of the locations we could reach if we invest in a 350 metre extension to the runway.

There’s more detail in the massive media release issued this morning by the airport.

Extending the runway by way of a reclamation, approximately 330 metres into the Coastal Marine Area, will open up direct links for long haul aircraft to Asia and North America within 12 ½ hours flying time. The extension will meet today’s market demand and stimulate growth in tourism plus deliver more efficient business travel and freight services. It will save long haul travellers time and money.

But the figures seem movable. The advertisement says the runway extension will be 350 metres. The media release says it would be “approximately” 330 metres.

And the 2020 claim, with the map showing flights on eight new long-haul routes from Wellington, is flatout contradicted by a sentence in the media release which refers to

a daily long haul service in 2021 growing to 4 flights per day by 2035

It would also be fair to observe that the small globe (“our current world”) has omitted to show that there are already direct flights from Wellington to Fiji (linking to flights on to the United States … a fact which evidently doesn’t suit the airport’s steamrolling campaign.)

The airport company isn’t mentioned in the advertisement, which is from an entity calling itself Connect Wellington, which has an impressive and expensive website, to which all 27 reports on the extension plan have now been added.

Somewhere in one of the reports is the claim (“from independent economic researchers Sapere”) that benefits from the longer runway are predicted to be $2billion. But such benefits are apparently to be shared with the entire country, and won’t be only for bank accounts in Wellington. Is there an independent analyst, unconnected with the airport, who can take a cool look at the reality of this claim?

As for the airport’s stated hope that the government should join the city council in paying for the runway extension:

Wellingtonians may have more personal concerns.

The consent application will seek permission for the materials required for the reclamation to be delivered by land and water, or a combination of the two. The main land traffic-generating activity will be the delivery of materials to site – potentially from quarries at Kiwi Point (Ngauranga Gorge) and Horokiwi (south of Petone). Transport through local suburbs will be during weekday, off-peak times only and there will be up to 60 trucks an hour operating.

And the noise? The noise …

…all work will generally be within acceptable limits, with the exception of night-time periods for certain construction phases. A Construction Management Plan will contain the principles and requirements relating to management of noise to engage with the local community. Should the extension go ahead, Moa Point residents will have the option to receive insulation for their property to mitigate construction noise and can sell their property at “pre-extension value” to Wellington Airport…

Public consultation is being run by “Connect Wellington”, with three chances in December to “meet with the experts one on one.” Will the writers of all 27 reports be at these meetings? The deadline to “say what you think” is 12 February.


  1. Traveller, 25. November 2015, 11:33

    Surely the public consultation should be run by an independent organisation, and not by the airport itself.

  2. Dr Sea Rotmann, 25. November 2015, 12:05

    Thanks so much for this excellent article. Many questions are being left unanswered, front and center who the airline is that will fly here from where; who will pay, as the Govt has made it very clear that Infratil (who recently posted $1b profit) will not receive any Corporate welfare handouts; how they’re going to deal with the serious safety concerns raised by the Pilots Association which would lead to a doubling of the cost; why cost benefit analysis talks about 355m extension (see how much the numbers on their own reports differ?) but only a $300m cost even though they say it’s “$1m per meter”. Not sure I trust an economic analysis paid by the airport, for the benefit of the airport, where they make a $55m cost calculation screw up in the Executive Summary. I could go on, but I’ll say more in an interview with TVOne later today.

  3. Esjay, 25. November 2015, 15:53

    It took me 30 minutes to look at the first 10 pages of the construction report. So far the Moa Point people are the only residents regarded as being affected. There will be 555 truck loads of fill per day and 60 loads per hour being directed from various quarries. What this means is that hundreds upon hundreds of residents are going to be impacted on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week up to 3 years. What gives WIAL the right to consider that this is acceptable? What about the wear and tear on our roads? Wake up Wellington now or you will be kept awake like it or not.

  4. Wellingtonian, 25. November 2015, 16:37

    If the idea was viable, the airport would pay for it.

  5. David Lee, 25. November 2015, 16:53

    The Govt says ‘not likely’, so the patsy in the room is the Wellington City Council, happy to gamble with Wellington ratepayers’ $. No way! [via Twitter]

  6. Henry Filth, 25. November 2015, 19:13

    I really, truly, seriously doubt that there is the volume of potential passengers to fill the projected aerial armada. What then?

  7. Patrick Morgan, 25. November 2015, 20:27

    I have a few questions. Exactly what route will trucks take? Will 60 trucks an hour rumble down Vivian St? Will they go through the tunnel or Newtown and Kilbirnie? Is the extension contingent on Petone to Grenada road plans? How has projected sea level rise by 2100 been factored in? I imagine Auckland and Chch Airports could lower fees in response – has this been factored in? If carbon taxes hit $100/t what effect will this have on demand for air travel? What effects on traffic flow would the extra flights have? Would direct long haul flights be offset by fewer flights to Auckland? Why do Strathmore residents regard WIAL as the neighbour from hell? Does airport land have higher value as housing, retail and commercial property? How independent are these reports if they are funded by the airport?

  8. Guy, 25. November 2015, 21:59

    Patrick – good questions! I’d certainly love to hear some answers from Wellington Airport. I can only help on one of them: sea level rise isn’t going to affect it, as Wellington’s runway is 40 feet above the sea level – but it may well affect Auckland’s airport, which is only 12 feet above sea level.

  9. Torken Faddy, 25. November 2015, 22:11

    I’ve had a look at the transport routes Patrick. At peak (lasting >6 months at least, total construction far longer), there would be an average of one massive loaded truck-and-trailer unit PER MINUTE via the Terrace tunnel, Vivian, Kent/Cambridge, Mt Vic tunnel, Cobham and Calabar, then back via Lyall Bay and Rongotai (mounting at least one roundabout on the way). They have alternative routes via Oriental Bay(!) or Brooklyn/Happy Valley. Until 10pm. Every single weekday. Insane stuff really.

    I’m sure they will have taken into account the indirect effects on people living on the route, or wear on the local roads, or turning the CBD into a noxious heavy truck parade for months on end. I’m sure.

  10. Ross Clark, 25. November 2015, 23:55

    What I found telling was that the number of additional international passengers per year (1.2m by 2060, 36 percent) would be offset by a fall of 460,000 domestic passengers per year (-4%); meaning an additional 700,000 international passengers (+18 percent) per year only; or less than 5 percent per year on the airport’s overall volumes.

    As I have argued before, the need is to improve connections to the international part of Auckland Airport, as it awaits development of a joint international-plus-domestic terminal.

  11. syrahnose, 26. November 2015, 7:46

    “Sea level rise isn’t going to affect it, as Wellington’s runway is 40 feet above sea level – but it may well affect Auckland’s airport, which is only 12 feet above sea level.” An excellent reason why the govt should consider paying for it. They will have to raise the level of Auckland airport at some point, which would cost much more to maintain international access to NZ. A second logical reason is that channeling people into Wellington could reduce population pressure on Auckland and bring more high density population development to Wellington, creating the rates base to produce all the infrastructure pet-projects that people on this site rant on about. It would be enlightening to see some old newspaper clippings that, no doubt, show similar arguments about why the original extension shouldn’t have been built way back then.

  12. Esjay, 26. November 2015, 8:49

    Who needs an airport runway extension when thousands of visitors arrive into Wellington by cruise ship?

  13. Andrew, 26. November 2015, 10:42

    What, making people land in Wellington means they’ll live here instead of Auckland? Haha…

  14. Patrick Morgan, 26. November 2015, 11:21

    Wellington runway may be 40m above sea level, but how about Cobham Drive? Does the $300m include sea level rise protection for Cobham Drive?

  15. KB, 26. November 2015, 12:26

    Seems like they have opted for a quantity of supporting reports when they couldn’t get a single quality supporting one.

  16. Elaine Hampton, 26. November 2015, 13:39

    Sea level rise is not just sea level rise, it is storm surge, wind, eating away at the foundations and low lying city areas. Airports closed.
    Wellington needs to get real, the world is meeting in Paris to try to sort climate change, but WIAL is trucking along as if everything will stay the same and the era of cheap air travel will last for the foreseeable.
    No real business case, no independent reports, a bid for public money, and the threat of dreadful damage to the city infrastructure. And our council appear to be ready to swallow the spin and pretty pictures.

  17. Victor Davie, 26. November 2015, 14:49

    Long airport runways could soon become outdated. Aircraft will be able to hover during take-off and landing. We’ve come a long way since the Wright Brothers and Richard Pearce inventions. New designs and technology will ensure air transport survives. But not as we know it today.

  18. Kay, 29. November 2015, 18:05

    An expert at the Wellington City Council says the runway is 9 metres about sea level. That’s not allowing for any quake induced change which could lift or drop the level. While 9 metres sounds like a lot, NASA predict sea level rises in the next 30 years, and with storm surges and king tides an extended runway could be battered.
    Also worth thinking about: New Zealanders’ and Government’s commitment to a reduction in carbon based gas emissions. What would runway construction and operation do to our GHG emission rates? Where will Wellington reduce its emissions to avoid an escalation of climate change?

  19. Guy, 29. November 2015, 22:55

    Kay, predicted NZ sea level rises by NIWA, for the next 100 years, is about one metre. So far, the level has risen by about a centimetre. Granted, if the Antarctic ice sheets melt, sea levels may rise another 5 metres, but if that happens, we will have more to worry about than the runway getting flooded – the entire city will be well underwater at ground level, and countries like Bangladesh will be wiped off the face of the Earth. (I think their whole country is only about 2-3 metres above high tide). Ironically, probably the only thing still remaining above sea level, will be the Wellington airport, nestled between Strathmore Island and Haitaitai Island.

  20. Dr Sea Rotmann, 1. December 2015, 11:17

    Sea levels rose by 20cm in the last 50 years and the ocean came over Moa Point road and halfway up the runway 5 times this year already. The ends of the runway are 9m above sea level (we regularly have 10+m waves in Cook Strait!) but the middle section is lower and not far above the road which keeps getting flooded. The bigger issue is that Cobham Drive, the main access road to the airport, is one of the areas most affected by rising sea levels – in the next 50 years which is by when this extension is finally meant to pay for itself.

  21. Build it now!, 1. December 2015, 11:57

    So what should we do then? Move the whole airport at a cost of Billions of $$, and the local communities whose houses will be at risk way before the airport is? Or should we plan to mitigate the effect of any sea level rise issues in the future. The sea level rise discussion is irrelevant to the runway extension discussion, as even without extending the runway the airport will be at risk and adding an extension doesn’t make the airport MORE at risk.

  22. Kay, 1. December 2015, 14:41

    As the sea level rises, storm surges and king tides could swamp an extended runway. Wellington airport is more exposed to extreme weather events than some other sites, and may need more regular repair work as well as postponements to flights. Other people have suggested that Paraparaumu, Ohakea, Palmerston North airports could be possible expansion sites. I would want to see more evidence of need that includes an assessment of climate impacts before investing my money.

    In Paris, PM Key said New Zealand will commit $200million to climate mitigation activities. That commitment was without any additional activities to balance extra greenhouse gas emissions from more air and people traffic in Wellington. What would the real cost to Wellingtonians be if the project goes ahead?

  23. Esjay, 3. December 2015, 14:48

    Surely there is a good argument to construct an International Airport at Ohakea! An ideal centralised position for the entire central region of the North Island. Wellington needs huge expenditure to upgrade the main highways to the airport. Stephen Joyce is aware of that! This means that you build your airport now, and no one can travel to and from it without major hold ups as a result of traffic congestion.

  24. Paul, 3. December 2015, 18:34

    true Esjay, let alone the congestion caused by the construction process itself. Wellington brought to a halt for 5 months while truck and trailers roll through town incessantly.