Wellington Scoop

Facts, or spin, about the runway

airport before and after
Before and after a longer runway

by Sea Rotmann
We hoped this week that TV One News would give us the chance to provide some counter to the big bunch of airport spin that was headlined on Tuesday. That was unfortunately not the case. However the pilots and the airline association have come out with serious doubts and concerns about extending the runway, following the airport’s dump of 27 impact reports.

There were also doubts from Steven Joyce who sent this (quite hilarious) tweet in response to the news:

It is heartening for us when the National and Green Parties both agree that the runway plan amounts to economic folly, and that it is a form of corporate welfare. However it’s more serious that the Mayor has been quoted by the DomPost as saying

She is confident the Wellington Airport runway extension will go ahead and be a game-changer for the local economy. Contrary to the claims of critics, she says, there are airlines seriously interested in backing the project. And the business case will be so good the Government won’t be able to refuse its backing either.

It is also a serious issue for the Airport, as its one-sided cost-benefit analysis (the peer review of NZIER as well as our own will soon throw some doubt on the fantastical claim of a $7 benefit for every $1 spent) clearly states that the bulk of the cost should be borne by the taxpayer, something Joyce obviously doesn’t agree with.

The cost benefit analysis – note: not a business case, not even with all other 27 reports combined (they’re mostly for the Environment Court case which isn’t concerned with the business case but the environmental impacts of the project) – does not incorporate any of the many environmental and social costs as they ‘can’t be monetised’, nor does it include the obvious benefit to the airport from an increased asset base. It also bases all its numbers on the InterVistas forecast, which the Council’s peer review has shown to be highly exaggerated, by about a factor of 5.

We look forward to a proper peer review by economists who will undoubtedly pick apart this document and its outrageous claims.

Until then, we will continue to read the 27 reports so that we can go to the public ‘consultation’ next week armed with good questions – yes, exactly one week has been allowed to read all 27 reports in order to be heard at the first open day. We hope that doesn’t put too many people off and you will go to the open days to ask your own questions and provide feedback.

Despite the Airport continually claiming the false numbers that 80% of Wellingtonians are for the extension (even though 81% of long term plan submissions were against it), we believe that most of you would be appalled if you knew that you will take all the risks and pay for a hugely destructive project that a billion dollar multinational will get all the benefits for, without possibly ever seeing a single airline flying to Singapore… or Dubai… or LA… (definitely never all of them).

Dr Rotmann is co-chair of the Guardians of the Bays


  1. Esjay, 28. November 2015, 16:18

    I daresay that handouts of these reports will be issued at the meetings? Frank Sinatra’s song “I did it my way” surely must be appropriate!

  2. Hel, 28. November 2015, 21:30

    Look forward to reading the “independent” peer review. Wouldn’t mind reading the Council peer review that shows the forecasts are overstated by 5 times, that is outrageous. Could you point me to where I can read it.

  3. Dr Sea Rotmann, 30. November 2015, 17:00

    It was nicely hidden and is never mentioned by the proponents, probably because you need to dig yourself through several hundred pages but both the Airbiz and PwC reviews caution the Council around the market catchment numbers used by InterVISTAS and EY: http://wellington.govt.nz/~/media/your-council/meetings/Council/2014/12/supplementary-agenda.pdf

  4. Build it now!, 1. December 2015, 11:53

    Hold on – Page 7 of the report states:
    28. The peer review could not find any errors in assumptions or process that would materially impact on the findings of the InterVISTAS or EY Reports.
    29.The key findings of the peer review are:
    – Airbiz conducted the review of the InterVISTAS report and Airbiz are of the opinion that InterVISTAS has assessed and presented a reasonable and credible view of the airline and route prospects at case study level for new long haul services.
    – PWC conducted the review of the EY report and are comfortable with the approach adopted by EY to assess potential economic benefits and cannot identify any errors in technique, logic or calculation.

    What you are referring to is later in the report where a catchment number was quoted and the peer reviewers seeked clarification as to how the numbers were used. Clearly they were happy with how they were used. How can you take one excerpt from the report out of context when the findings say it was fit for purposed.

  5. Esjay, 4. December 2015, 13:45

    Paying for reports has to favour the company who commissions them. Where are the Terms of Reference? Have they been made public? Then and only then can the reports be judged as being independent, or not.

  6. Nora, 4. December 2015, 15:08

    Highly recommend Patrick Smellie’s article in Thursday’s DomPost: “Runway extension fails the sniff test.”