Wellington Scoop

Concern about airport expansion into Miramar residential zone


Miramar South residents met last week to discuss their concerns about the Wellington Airport extension plans.

The local people are concerned that the airport has given notice that it wants residential land to be re-designated for airport use so that it can develop open space which was formerly the Miramar South school.

Spokesperson Fiona Prestidge told the meeting that a Designation avoids the resource consent process and escapes District Plan zoning/rules.

She said the airport was planning buildings 10m high, covering 35% of the school site. It was intending to relocate ancillary airport businesses, some operating 24/7. There would be traffic changes, especially on Broadway.

She asked:

1. Are activities like rental cars and freight handling ‘critical / essential services’ for the Wellington region and deserving special District Plan treatment?
2. Why has relocation of these operations to the existing airport precinct zone (Lyall Bay retail centre) or adjacent industrial/commercial land on Tirangi Rd not been considered?
3. Can designation be justified when there are existing district plan mechanisms like zoning (ref Airport Precint DP ch.11) and resource consent process?
4. Why did the WCC decide not to publicly-notify this application for Designation?

Another question of concern to the local residents: is the land use reasonable in a residential zone?

The airport envisages
– Activities including 24 hour operations (flight catering)
– Buildings 10m high with 8m walls (massive bulk/shading)
– Generating new truck / car traffic on Broadway and Kauri St
– Occupies a whole block, with 35% / 20,000m (2 hectares) of buildings
– Substantial new sources of noise, light and air pollution

The residents feel this would:
– Impose commercial/industrial scale activity in an established residential zone
– Remove open space from everyday use (esp. dog walkers/kids)
– Set the scene for further ‘airport noise blighting’ and continuing airport expansion over Miramar

In her presentation, Fiona Prestidge asked: Is WIAL acquiring land for expansion fairly and openly? She said the airport has made approaches to purchase Miro St properties – but this is not mentioned in their 2040 Plan. “The golf course is being purchased. What other deals is the airport up to?”

Other information given to the meeting of residents:

Ownership of the land:
● The Crown owns the school site but there has been no public information about the land’s status/sale
● Residents learned through contact with Taranaki Whanui that an unconditional purchase agreement has been made by the airport – settlement by 18 December
● Taranaki Whanui were not offered First Right of Refusal, as the sale is pursuant to s50 Public Works Act

Ownership of the land – Timeline
● Pre July 2015 – WIAL advised Ministry of Education of their interest in the land
● July 2015 – land declared surplus by Ministry of Education, and passed over to LINZ for disposal
● October 2015 – Housing NZ advised LINZ they had no interest in the land
● December 2017 – new requirement of Cabinet requiring Housing NZ and MBIE to be advised before disposal
● February 2018 – MBIE (HUD) advise LINZ of their interest, but LINZ advised they were too late as things were well advanced with WIAL
● October 2019 – LINZ approve transfer of land to WIAL

Is there a conflict of interest?

● Wellingtonians depend on WCC to uphold and administer the Wellington City District Plan.
● How can WCC reasonably do this without conflict of interest given it is a shareholder in WIAL and recipient of dividends from airport activity?
● Approving this designation could make WCC appear a conflicted planning authority not able to balance local residents needs with regional airport interests
● Is the integrity of Wellington planning itself under threat?

The Miramar residents are also concerned about the short period of consultation:

WIAL discussions with the Crown on land acquisition have been ongoing for years;
WCC has been discussing this with WIAL for two years or more;
WIAL has been preparing this designation notice of requirement since early 2018, but the WCC only notified it to affected residents on 25 October;
Local residents were sent hundreds of pages of Requiring Authority Notice documents and consultants’ reports, and given only until 25 November (just 4 weeks) for Submissions to the WCC.

While pursuing this designation, WIAL has also.
❏ obtained resource consent for rental car operations on the site.
❏ slowed / delayed its airport noise remediation packages for local properties

Written submissions close at 5pm tonight. Send by email to planning@wcc.govt.nz.



  1. Marion Leader, 25. November 2019, 16:51

    The important thing is the breaking of the Council’s climate change policy. The new younger councillors should be concerned about this.

  2. Jeff Weir, 25. November 2019, 17:17

    I’ve put in my submission. In it, I’ve stated my opposition on the grounds that:
    • The development of rental car hire and catering facilities does not constitute an “essential service” to the Wellington region
    • The airport cannot forever use the argument of “projected demand” as a trump card when seeking to expand, given a) their proximity to a highly populous residential area and b) the massive environmental externalities in terms of air travel-related emissions this expansion is intended to facilitate.

    There has to be a point at which expansion for growth’s sake can no longer be countenanced, given the externalities imposed on third parties – externalities that will be realised both here and now and in future generations.

    The airport is a commercial entity. They don’t want to expand because of benefits to the region. They want to expand because of benefits to the stakeholders. At what point is a stakeholder’s pursuit of profit cancelled by a homeowner’s pursuit of community. Now, I’d say.

  3. Pseudopanax, 25. November 2019, 19:39

    Surely land set aside by our Forefathers for education and recreation should stay in Public Ownership, and should not be given to a corporation whose Business Model prioritises car use over Public Transport to boost profits. Airport expansion plans will help cook our ‘Coolest Little Capital’ golden goose and wreak environmental havoc for residents. It’s time for the WCC and GWRC to put people before corporate profit.

  4. Hel, 25. November 2019, 20:44

    The airport is a critical piece of Wellington infrastructure and the region benefits hugely from its activities. Sadly people living in the adjacent areas are going to be effected by its activities, that sort of goes with living in an area where an airport is the dominant feature.

  5. Lou, 25. November 2019, 23:18

    The airport own all the land where they developed the Warehouse and all the other big retailers so why don’t they expand onto their own land rather than grabbing residentual land and golfcourse.

  6. glenn, 26. November 2019, 6:24

    If you bought a house prior to the airport being there (highly unlikely), then you have a case to complain. otherwise you don’t have a leg to stand on.

  7. Benny, 26. November 2019, 7:14

    @Hel: sad is a gross understatement and I would encourage anyone seeing the misery of living next to the airport as a “sad” but unavoidable necessity to come and live alongside the runway for, say, a week. Or attend a community meeting where these issues are debated to hear exactly what it’s like to live near the airport and yet, see its nuisance perimeter growing. If everyone who flew lived next to the airport, boy they’d be flying way less. Each time one flies, it keeps destroying these residents’ lives a little more, notwithstanding our future.

  8. GrahamCA, 26. November 2019, 7:50

    Glenn – what about someone who 30 years ago bought a house next to a school? Because that was what was on this site until recently plus, unless the airport builds an underground connection between this site and the airport proper, there will be a significant increase in commercial traffic on a suburban street approaching an intersection that already has congestion problems.

  9. Guntao Stem, 26. November 2019, 9:16

    So much for Wellington’s ‘Climate Change Emergency’. Clearly, Andy Foster wants to expand the airport so we can all leave for Antarctica when the emergency gets real.

  10. CC, 26. November 2019, 9:20

    Jeff Weir: You have referred to ‘stakeholders’ in your submission. Surely you meant ‘shareholders’. WIAL would no doubt consider the likes of hotels, cafes and restaurants, retailers and the massive fleet of taxis that service the airport as stakeholders. This would be on the basis that they probably derive some proportion of their income from people who use the airport. Your final paragraph makes it clear that you were referring to the direct financial beneficiaries of the infrastructure who are the shareholders. As an observation, the one third owners, the Council, do not seem to secure the same proportion of income from revenue as the private sector investors.

  11. Benny, 26. November 2019, 9:25

    @Glenn: You obviously haven’t been to this community meeting or you wouldn’t make this yet again insensitive comment. These residents were living next to a school (next to a runway) and their immediate concern (beyond the 2040 expansion plan) is that the school has been bought to be repurposed as a catering facility, running 24/7. A school, with kids’ “noise” (if that’s a noise) during school hours versus catering noise 24/7 (with the smell that comes with it, as mentioned by some residents), I’m sure even you can see how that’s an issue.

  12. Curtis Nixon, 26. November 2019, 13:49

    It is timely that this debate about the airport expansion is happening at the same time as the idea is being touted of moving the Port of Auckland elsewhere. Many of the same arguments apply. The waterfront area in Auckland is wanted for public access to the harbour and “alternative uses”. Waterfront land has high recreational and public use value. Ports are land-intensive, low-value operations that are ugly to look at.

    So I propose moving Wellington airport to Paraparaumu. All the current benefits would be retained but the negative impacts of the sprawl and noise would be gone.

  13. Julian Palmer, 26. November 2019, 15:15

    The rental car companies, taxis, Uber and the Airport Flyer are currently not even meeting the demand of many travellers. They are simply too expensive. An increasing number of travellers are walking to the first residential bus stop to catch Metlink’s No. 2 service to the CBD. This causes delays as they: often don’t have the correct change, require directions from the driver and overload the baggage racks. And these budget travellers come in all sorts and large numbers. They cannot just be dismissed as being the much maligned freedom campers who travel in vans. This a problem for locals trying to get to their destinations on time. Why can’t the WCC introduce an affordable light rail service from the Railway Station to the Airport. More vehicles mean more congestion, delays, missed flights and pollution. Get busy deputy Mayor Sarah Free.

  14. can5far, 26. November 2019, 15:42

    @Curtis Nixon. What makes you think that Kapiti wants the airport; there was an opportunity some years ago to extend the Paraparaumu airport but it was not wanted, so much of the land surrounding the airport was sold. The rail service does not go to the current airport – it is 3 to 4 kms away. For people living in Kapiti it is often simpler to fly out of Palmerston North – around the same travel time, less hassle to get to and Palmy doesn’t have the Wellington traffic problems. Wellington’s population is 4 times that of Kapiti and there are more businesses/Government employees living in Wellington.

  15. glenn, 26. November 2019, 15:44

    If the vacant land was turned into a large housing sub-division, this would be okay? Seems you have two choices … consider moving, or all the local concerned residents, get together and buy it.

  16. Sasha, 26. November 2019, 18:19

    Glenn, spot on. People purchasing land/property must not expect that all of their surroundings will remain as they are. Change will happen. Change is sometimes needed.

  17. Julian Palmer, 26. November 2019, 22:55

    Glenn, in regards to your first comment about who was there first; the residents or airport. Respectfully, that is irrelevant in the Common Law. With Private or Public Nuisance causes of tortious legal Action, it is not about who did what first. But about whether a land use activity is a nuisance to any neighbour or affected parties. Under NZ Statutory Law, the Resource Management Act is supposed to avoid, remedy, or mitigate any future adverse effects on the environment from proposed changes to existing land use.

  18. Casey, 27. November 2019, 7:18

    Whilst concern by local residents is understandable, the rationale has always been in such cases what is considered the greater benefit. However as we saw with the Basin flyover public concerns stopped that eyesore from spoiling an area of interest.

    The airport is a substantial generator of income for the region and will continue to expand. Concerns and noise and aromas from the new catering facility can be mitigated. Additional traffic as a percentage of what there is now will not be major.

    The wider problem of traffic to and from the eastern suburbs is what requires immediate planning action, but Mayor Foster’s push for a second tunnel adjacent to the Mt. Victoria one will only exacerbate the issue at peak hours and at weekends. Mass transit from the CBD to Miramar connecting to the airport is what needs implementing, thus encouraging people away from using private cars. The current slipshod bus service does the opposite.

  19. steve doole, 27. November 2019, 10:32

    Paraparaumu airport was considered for expansion to international standard in 1960s, as can5far mentions. A fast train service was discussed as well, although I don’t recall whether Wellington airport was to be retained. I suspect not, as even now the overshoot areas at both ends of the runway are below the minimum for large aircraft.

  20. Dave B, 27. November 2019, 11:02

    I had hoped that a small strip of Miramar Golf Course could have been released to accommodate the much-needed Airport Railway Station which would provide easy rapid-transit access not only to the city-centre but to all rail-served parts of the Wellington Region.
    That way, the ridiculously-large provision of airport car-parking and taxi-parking could be scaled right back, as could “4-lanes to the planes”. There are still too many decision-makers with outdated ideas holding the Wellington Region back.

  21. glenn, 28. November 2019, 9:41

    @julian, if you bought a house, in the full knowledge it was next to an airport, then you don’t have any right to impose your narrow minded views on the wider community and greater good. The continued stymieing of essential projects is the reason why wellington has ground to a halt. As i said before, no one is forcing anyone to live next to the airport.

  22. Benny, 28. November 2019, 16:13

    @glenn: wherever you chose to live (I like how you think the people living next to the airport “chose” to live there), you don’t have any right to impose your outdated definition of what is the greater good. You think everyone wants a bigger airport, that it is the definition of the greater good. You’re wrong. Many people are aware of climate change and are not happy about the growth of the airport for how it will make it worse, faster. The greater good, for these people, is an airport that doesn’t grow, or that shrinks until it can welcome sustainable ways of flying. That is the urgency. That is the greater good, that goes above your tiny benefits to fly more, further, faster, cheaper.

    Many other people who have to live next to the runway would obviously rather not have the nuisance. They stay there because of cost, because of the social life, who knows the constraints? But don’t believe a minute it’s a lighthearted choice to live next to a polluting, noisy industrial area.

  23. Hel, 28. November 2019, 19:50

    @Benny; last time I looked there no-one was forced to live next to the airport. Having made that choice then live with it, there is little new in the airport masterplan that wasn’t there previously. The “tiny” benefits to flying, well you might consider a functioning economy – there are something like 6 or 7 million people who go through the airport each year which suggests the greater good might have some merit. Having made the choice to live by a growing airport, it seems rich to describe it as a nuisance. I am getting on now and remember when the airport was just a hangar and I am proud we now have such a fantastic airport and thanks to people who had the foresight to consider the greater good.

  24. Benny, 28. November 2019, 21:46

    @Hel: you look at the 6 million passengers to define greater good. I look at the 7 billion people living on this planet (yes, that includes you) for whom living conditions are about to become significantly harder if we don’t do anything now about greenhouse emissions. I too, fly once a year, but really, we shouldn’t (and I shouldn’t) until we’ve fixed this problem.

    And you have choices in your life about where you live? Where you work? Congratulations. I hope you are grateful for that, as I would bet my money you wouldn’t trade wherever you live to live next to the airport. I would bet my money too that the people living next to it would rather have its nuisance reduced or contained, including traffic, air pollution, noise. Showing some empathy for them should be human.

    It’s fine to have made it through life to have options, but don’t think everyone has had the same fortune. And finally, if I haven’t made my point clear, can I point you to the Tintin book The Castafiore Emerald : it’s a great illustration of the different classes in society and the «choice» (not) given to those who are in the lower ones.

  25. Guntao Stem, 29. November 2019, 10:41

    Benny it’s the number of people that’s the problem. Every country needs a zero population growth target implemented NOW. That includes NZ.

  26. Hel, 29. November 2019, 19:45

    Thanks Benny and frankly you know nothing about my life and whether I have had good fortune. However, I don’t believe there is any class system in NZ; we remain a country where if you want to get on and are prepared to put in the effort there are plenty of opportunities.

  27. Julian Palmer, 29. November 2019, 20:20

    Maybe as an act of basic human kindness this festive season, WCC’s corporate partner in WIAL, Infratil, would care to offer to pick up half the tab for double glazing all the homes of the few notified parties actually included with this matter? And no more humbugs, please, from those apologists for this arguably unsustainable development.

  28. GP, 6. December 2019, 11:44

    Such a shame that Wellington has not got an “International” Airport yet. Wellingtonian needs to transfer in Auckland or Australia.

  29. Guy M, 6. December 2019, 13:04

    GP – ummm, but it does. In fact, “the Wellington International Terminal” is a key part of the airport. But, due to a short runway, you have a limited choice of destinations. However, without transfers, you can fly internationally direct to many places around the Pacific. Rarotonga, Samoa, Sydney, Tonga etc – they are all direct international flights from Wellington. Or if you want to go further afield, change in Aus. Not really a problem.