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Facts, or spin, about the runway

airport before and after [1]
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 [2] have come out with serious doubts and concerns about extending the runway, following the airport’s dump of 27 impact reports [3].

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 [6] 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 [7] (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 [8]