Wellington Scoop

Airport delays runway extension hearing, appeals to Supreme Court on safety ruling

News from Guardians of the Bays
Residents and ratepayers group Guardians of the Bays has welcomed the news that Wellington Airport will postpone the progression of its runway extension resource consent in the Environment Court.

In advance of a pre-hearing conference, the Airport has announced that it will withdraw its resource consent application while it appeals to the Supreme Court on the Court of Appeal ruling that the Civil Aviation Authority must reconsider its decision on the length of the proposed runway safety area.

Guardians of the Bays’ Co-Chair Richard Randerson said the decision showed that Wellington Airport’s application was deficient in not considering possible contingencies such as the Court of Appeal decision.

“Wellington Airport has said in its own memo to the court that it will potentially need to rescope the application or withdraw it completely, if its appeal to the Supreme Court is unsuccessful.

“The Pilots Association case on the safety of the extension was before the courts well before Wellington Airport lodged its application to the Environment Court. Yet it still went ahead and used nearly $3 million of ratepayer funding to scope a proposal which now looks like it will be redundant.

“First and foremost, any runway extension must be safe, but to make that happen Wellington Airport’s budget will need serious review.”

Co-Chair Dr. Sea Rotmann said that the Airport’s decision to withdraw its application is an opportunity for Mayor Justin Lester and the Wellington City Council to seriously review the city’s commitment to funding this project.

“As time marches on, the figures that Wellington Airport put up about the costs become more out of date. There is already evidence that the proposal is likely to cost more than the $350m originally suggested. An extension to the runway safety area would push costs well over the half a billion dollars it is currently expected to reach and would put the project well outside the parameters of the current Environment Court application.”

In a meeting with the Guardians last month, Mayor Justin Lester said that the extension was not likely to happen any time soon and that Wellington City Council would not commit to providing more than $90m.

“We continue to urge the Mayor to take a leadership role for all ratepayers, including making a public commitment that the Council will not promise more ratepayer money for an application that has not been well considered.

“The Airport has previously specified the limit for its own investment in the extension at $100m. Anything above this must come from Wellington ratepayers and New Zealand taxpayers. We won’t know for a while if the Airport plans to proceed if a longer safety margin is required, but Wellingtonians need to know now that the Council will not burden ratepayers with additional costs- particularly as the suggested benefits are nebulous and far from being guaranteed.”


  1. Don M, 21. March 2017, 21:08

    So why are Wellington ratepayers now helping fund an appeal against Wellington Airport being made safer? Justin Lester needs to get a grip on the real world, and start taking ratepayers’ interests into account instead of just vested commercial interests.

  2. David Heald, 22. March 2017, 1:26

    Really need to consider that improving the runway end safety area (RESA) with an Engineered Material Arresting System (EMAS) could be accomplished at a much lower cost than establishing a 240 m RESA.. There are approximately 125 of these systems globally and it is exactly for this purpose. To provide a level of safety that can be considered equivalent to a 240 m RESA in a MUCH smaller footprint. In fact an EMAS may perhaps require only 110-120 m RESA to provide a level of overrun protection sought in employing a 240 m RESA whilst the EMAS itself can probably be procured and installed on a runway end for under $15M NZD

  3. TrevorH, 22. March 2017, 7:54

    @ Don: exactly! I strongly object to ratepayers’ money being purloined to fund a challenge to safety standards. This is an abuse of power.

  4. Save the Basin, 22. March 2017, 12:24

    The proposal to extend the Wellington Airport runway is descending into farce. Time for the airport to quit & stop wasting everyone’s time and money. [via twitter]

  5. Mary M, 23. March 2017, 8:44

    @Don: yes that is the WCC way, they create debt in the ratepayers’ name for private commercial projects and for other unnecessary private projects.

  6. Trish, 23. March 2017, 9:51

    The DomPost (22 March) reported WIAL CEO Steve Sanderson as saying that the safety of passengers was the airport’s “number one priority”. That is plainly not true. Their priority is to accommodate the largest aircraft with the shortest runway length they can get away with. If safety really is their top concern, they would be spending money to provide the recommended safety margin for their existing aircraft.

  7. GotB, 23. March 2017, 11:39

    Environment Court Judge Dwyer says he’s unhappy with the time & resources that have been wasted to date by everyone. So are we! [via twitter]