Wellington Scoop

Airport given six extra months to revise plans for runway extension

Report from RNZ
The Environment Court has given Wellington Airport more time to resubmit its resource consent for its runway extension plans. But the court says the substantial delays in the case reflected badly on the administration of justice and it was aware many participants had “had enough”.

In 2013, Wellington Airport sought permission from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to extend its runway by 355m to allow bigger planes to land. The CAA accepted those plans, including a 90m safety area at each end of the runway.

However, the Airline Pilots Association challenged that decision, arguing the safety areas were too short.

The case went all the way to the Supreme Court which in 2017 backed the pilots.

The airport has until May to resubmit its proposal to the CAA, taking into account the court’s concerns.

During the judicial conference last month, opponents asked the Environment Court to throw out the airport’s resource consent because of the delays and the change in circumstances.

Wellington Airport sought to put its application for a resource consent on hold for six months, to allow it time to re-file its application with the CAA.

The lawyer for Guardians of the Bay and Hue te Taka, James Gardiner-Hopkins argued the stress of being involved in complicated, prolonged and costly legal proceedings was taking its toll on participants.

In its decision, the court said the stress of litigation was well-recognised.

“We have no doubt that many participants in these proceedings will have ‘had enough’. It reflects badly on the administration of justice when proceedings become as prolonged as these and we accept that there is a consequential adverse and real effect on the community which arises as the result of the delay which is experienced in this case.”

It said the uncertainty over the decision hung over participants like “the Sword of Damocles. Again we accept that this is a real effects and one which is highly undesirable.” But it said striking out the application for resource consent would do little to alleviate opponents’ concerns.

“As we have noted previously, Wellington International Airport Limited has signalled quite unequivocally that in the event that the current proceedings are struck out, it will file fresh applications for resource consents on a similar basis if its 90m Runway End Safety Areas (RESA) proposal subsequently receives the (CAAs) Director’s approval.”

While acknowledging the negative impact of the delays, it also said they were understandable.

“We agree that the delay is substantial but we consider that is is understandable. It has been brought about by proceedings in a different jurisdiction which had a material impact on the ability to advance these applications,” the court said.

In its decision, the court said it faced two options.

Either it struck out the current proceedings, thereby wasting the time, cost and effort the parties had already put in. Or it put the proceedings on hold for six months – even though this meant the uncertainty continued and there was no guarantee the CAA would have made its decision by then.

While both alternatives were unsatisfactory, it ruled allowing Wellington Airport’s application to remain on hold for six months “is the less less unsatisfactory of the two unsatisfactory options before us.”


  1. Guardians of the Bays, 8. January 2019, 20:31

    We are grateful how sympathetic the judge was to us (including awarding us costs), however, none of this was unforeseen – the airport decided to go ahead without having safety court case dealt with and we are the ones suffering through endless litigation thanks to their arrogance! [via twitter]

  2. Ms Green, 8. January 2019, 20:46

    The city council should pull the plug…but this was a joint pet project of mayor Wade-Brown and deputy Justin Lester and still is of mayor Lester.
    By the way what is the opinion of the councillor elected to represent the voters on the Airport Board – Councillor Foster? And mayoral candidate Nicola Young (now a councillor) who told voters she was against the extension?
    Another wrong Council priority, which if the Airport company is successful will cost millions and overrun millions..and with hidden environmental and other costs down the line.

  3. Chris Horne, 8. January 2019, 21:26

    Extending Wellington Airport’s runway would mean that the airport would be able to handle larger aircraft, and result in the burning of more jet fuel. Wellington International Airport Limited (WIAL) and Infratil must realise that encouraging increased use of jet fuel would result in increased emissions of greenhouse gases. Likewise, emissions of greenhouse gases from vehicles and machinery during construction of the proposed runway extension would be large.

    WIAL and Infratil must be told that Parliament ratified New Zealand’s accession to the COP21 Paris Accord for good reason. This commits New Zealand to slashing its emissions of greenhouse gases,in the global fight against catastrophic climate change. Extending the runway would be incompatible with the letter and spirit of the COP21 Paris Accord, so must not be given resource consent to proceed.

  4. Ross Clark, 8. January 2019, 22:14

    As someone who likes planes, I have to ask this: who do WIAL expect to pay for the extension? The Council itself? (unlikely) Central Government? (even more unlikely).

    There are service options which would achieve the (possible) economic benefits of the extension but at far less cost.

  5. Marion Leader, 9. January 2019, 7:42

    Chris Horne has such a good point. If the Government has signed such an agreement then the Government should step in and stop the nonsense.
    Or is it just signing these treaties for the sake of appearance?

  6. Dr Sea Rotmann, 9. January 2019, 12:02

    Totally agree with Chris Horne! Not just our COP21 signature, but the fact that the Council claims it wants to become a “Low Carbon Capital”, yet has increased its emissions and completely defanged any action around the airport’s emissions (in 2016, as opposed to promising to doing *something* in the 2013 plan). The airport makes up close to a quarter (!) of Wellington’s emissions – and that is without counting the international flights. On top of that, both Mayors (Celia and Justin) continue to claim that this planned extension will *decrease* emissions, as flights “wouldn’t have to stop over in Auckland”. We debunked this a few years ago (http://guardiansofthebays.org.nz/guardians-submission-on-the-wcc-low-carbon-capital-plan/) but the main gist is this: the Mayor can’t have his cake and eat it. The whole fantasy of all this economic growth that will come from this White Elephant is built on a massive, hypothetical increase of long-haul routes. The through-traffic to Auckland is only 2% and no extra flights are required (or will be reduced) for the 12 Wellingtonians flying to Singapore every day. The promised attraction of several wide-bodied, long-haul flights to Wellington will blow our emissions budget out of the Cook Strait. Not only will we continue to be one of the world’s worst per capita emission offenders, we will also be known as the HIGH carbon capital! Not the kind of legacy supposedly environmentally-friendly Mayors should wish to have…

  7. Ian Apperley, 9. January 2019, 14:35

    The government hasn’t committed to this project at all. Last I read, some years ago, they advised WIAL it would need to pass the Treasury “Better Business Case” process, something it undoubtedly would not.

    WIAL expect pretty much anyone other than themselves (that means us) to pay for this and back at the beginning of this idiocy pointed out that it was uneconomic for them to pay their share of it.

    It’s a shambles and it simply will never happen. Even if it did, the airport would be under water by the time they started. Seriously, they need to start thinking about how to combat sea level rises before we don’t have any airport at all.

    The Councillors over the years have all flip flopped to one degree or other on the extension.

  8. TrevorH, 9. January 2019, 15:35

    Will the airport company be rewriting their business case? The last effort was a joke. The economics of the proposed extension did not stack up the first time around and they still don’t.

  9. Andrew, 9. January 2019, 19:32

    Does the mayor and WIAL realise there will be a second runway in the coming years at Auckland Airport? Surely that fact makes their proposal even crazier. Plus, the Regional Council love hub and spoke designs, I doubt they would agree with Wgtn trying to make itself anything more than a spoke.

  10. Tony Jansen, 10. January 2019, 9:27

    This extension is about improving an asset at the public’s cost so WIAL/Infatril can make a huge profit when they sell it. The ghost planes will never come as this is not how long haul travel is organised.
    The fact that the Mayor, the CEO and councillors back this is a further example of our elected representatives kissing the hands that feed them instead of representing democratically their constituents who voted them into their roles.
    How will we pay for the massive losses this, and the convention centre farce will serve up to the public?
    Just imagine what rate increase our Mayor will promote as being essential for our economical growth in the near future. I for one do not buy this rubbish.
    Time for a changing of the guard come election time later this year.

  11. Trevor H, 10. January 2019, 13:25

    @ Tony Jansen: exactly right but how to overcome the voter apathy that allows these people to be elected (along with promises of free stuff to gullible students)?

  12. Tony Jansen, 11. January 2019, 10:50

    Agree Trevor H. Even I am disenchanted with the current system and participants. We are never listened to. We take lots of time to participate in all sorts of feedback requests and submissions for this and that and our ideas and thoughts are completely ignored. The vote on the Convention Centre did it for me. Here was a chance for some of the vocal critics on Council to vote NO and force a review of the business plan and hopefully an open discussion of the best way forward. Not a single Councillor voted against building this ridiculous project. I was actually quite gutted. I feel incredibly let down.
    Short of sweeping them all out, I do not know what we can do as citizens, ratepayers and Wellingtonians.
    You will notice they voted down the proposal of electronic voting….it might enable the young to participate. We wouldn’t want that would we?