Wellington Scoop

Extending the runway: one truck every minute, for ten hours every day

by Lindsay Shelton
The brutal reality of constructing a longer runway at Wellington Airport is revealed in one of the 27 reports that were published this week. It provides startling details of the number of trucks-with-trailers that will be needed to carry rocks through the city for the reclamation – one every minute, for ten hours every weekday.

Starting at Ngauranga or Horokiwi, they’ll carry their loads on State Highway 1 through the city, for at least five months. State Highway 1 means that each truck and its trailer-load of rocks will go through the Terrace Tunnel and then along Vivian Street, Kent Terrace, and through Mt Victoria Tunnel. The report is written by a Christchurch company, who can’t have been aware of the mayhem that so many huge trucks will cause in these already over-loaded central streets.

The information is in a report about “construction noise,” but it covers a much wider scope than just the noise:

There could be in the order of 300,000 CuM (cubic metre) of rock and Akmons, 120,000 CuM of stone, 1.1M CuM of general fill, and 75,000 CuM of granular pavement material, plus materials to make 7,000 CuM of concrete and 23,000 tonnes of bituminous surfacing material, which would need to be brought to the site on a regular basis over the [36 month] construction period. These materials would be conveyed to the construction site via a to-be-determined combination of land based and water based transport …

…The preferred [land] route is to use a ‘circular’ route with inbound materials being delivered to the construction site via SH1, Stewart Duff Drive through the airport precinct and on to Moa Point Road. The outbound route will continue northwards along Moa Point Road, Lyall Parade, Tirangi Road, Coutts Street, Bridge Street, Cairns Street, Ronotai Road, Jean Batten Street before joining on to SH1 via a left hand only intersection

Transportation of construction materials will occur Monday to Friday and will involve a 10 hour working day (0900h to 1500h, and 1800h to 2200h) on weekdays … The Traffic Design Group, transport consultants to WIAL, has estimated the average number of daily vehicle movements that would occur during the construction period. During peak periods of the construction programme, deliveries (truck and trailer unit) will not exceed 555 vehicles per day, or up to approximately 60 vehicles per hour …

…Transportation of materials via water based means is likely to include a fleet of bottom dump barges which will import reclamation fill from either a port, ‘borrow pit’ or via dredging and then transferred to the construction site or to a temporary staging pontoon/berth. The barges would operate on a revolving basis until such time that they can no longer float over the rock dyke…For the purposes of this assessment it has been assumed that there are an estimated six deliveries by barge per day (i.e. 12 two-way movements).

Then there’s the noise – which will be heard at night, during the curfew.

Certain activities during airport operating hours could pose a flight safety risk because of the height and / or proximity of the operations to the main runway. Because of these operational restrictions, certain construction activities would have to occur when the night time noise curfew is in place. During this curfew period, ambient noise levels from the airport and other sources of noise will be at their lowest and any night time works may have the potential to increase the likelihood of disturbance to residents near the airport.

Many of the construction activities would produce noise of a magnitude lower than airport noise during airport operating hours. However, during the night time curfew period of 0100h-0600h when the airport is closed for scheduled aircraft movements during which certain activities will be undertaken due to operational restrictions, construction noise would be significant without appropriate management and operational controls. The principle contractor will be required to prepare and operate under a Construction Noise and Vibration Management Plan and a Construction Environment Management Plan, which will include predictions of construction noise and identifying necessary mitigation measures…

There’s much more for the locals, and the contractors, to worry about, if the proposal gets resource consent and if the airport succeeds in finding the money.

There are 4 main (inter-related) constraints associated with the project:

Building the project at an operating airport …which is located in a fairly densely developed urban/suburban environment.

The weather and sea conditions in Lyall Bay.

The logistics associated with moving and placing a large quantity of bulk material.

The use of specialist plant to facilitate the reclamation works

There’ll be worries for pilots too.

The Obstacle Limitation Surface is one of the most significant constraints for the project. The OLS defines the surfaces in the airspace above and adjacent to the airport. The OLS is necessary to enable aircraft to maintain a satisfactory level of safety while manoeuvring at low altitude in the vicinity of the runway. These surfaces should be free of obstacles and are subject to controls such as the establishment of zones, where the erection of buildings, masts, and so on, that may penetrate the OLS are prohibited. These restrictions also apply to temporary structures such as construction works, e.g. use of cranes, towers etc.

And finally, the report helpfully defines “noise,” thereby forewarning the airport’s neighbours of what could be in store for them.

Excessive noise can interfere with speech communication; it can interrupt a wide range of different types of work, particularly activities requiring sustained concentration; it can disturb rest and relaxation; and depending on the hours of operations it can disrupt normal patterns of sleep. Continuous high noise levels for extended periods of time can contribute to noise induced hearing loss, whilst at the generally lower sound levels typically found outside houses, residents often report varying degrees of annoyance. The World Health Organisation (WHO)defines noise annoyance as ‘a feeling of displeasure evoked by a noise’

But worse than the noise, think of all those trucks – one every sixty seconds.


  1. Dr Sea Rotmann, 26. November 2015, 15:03

    Thanks so much for pointing out this very significant issue – it’s one that will affect large parts of Wellington, not just us residents. Though for the people at Moa Point it’ll apparently mean getting moved to hotels during night time work – that can’t be cheap! Nor is it ideal especially seeing almost everyone here has pets… What about Lyall Bay residents? Coutts and Bridge St? Rongotai Rd? They can’t put all the 100s of residents who won’t be able to sleep into hotels, surely. And the safety issues sound like an even worse nightmare for pilots, on top of the inadequate safety zones… Madness.

  2. Esjay, 26. November 2015, 16:12

    It seems as if the whole world evolves around the wants of the Airport! And why should it? Once the fill is dumped on-site will the bulldozers then take over after midnight? WIAL has concluded that Moa Point residents will be the only residents to be affected from construction activity. Apart from the trucks traversing Wellington streets, residents of Lyall Bay, Melrose and Strathmore Park will also be on the receiving end. The environment in these locations during the night time hours is very quiet. So why does WIAL consider that residents would accept a noisy intrusion from construction work when most folk are sleeping?

  3. luke, 26. November 2015, 16:30


  4. Curtis Nixon, 26. November 2015, 17:54

    Wow! That number of trucks through central Wellington every day for months would be devastating. I once lived next to the route of trucks going to and from a huge digging project, Fraser Cove in Tauranga. Every truck shook my house and as some were double rigs of a truck and trailer unit, they shook a bit harder. After a while I could tell the difference between a single or a double load!

  5. Esjay, 26. November 2015, 17:54

    Luke, facts are facts.

  6. Ian Apperley, 26. November 2015, 18:06

    When they built the tunnel at the southern end of the airport it was done at night. You could hear it from all over the Eastern Suburbs. Miramar, Strathmore, Hataitai, Evans Bay, Lyall Bay, Kilbirnie, Melrose … It was worse on still nights. I lived in Miramar at the time and it would wake me.

  7. JC, 27. November 2015, 6:54

    Short term pain, long term gain. Harden up folks.

  8. Paul, 27. November 2015, 10:05

    @ JC: should that be short term pain, long term white elephant? The Airport’s spin has strong whiffs of BS emanating from it. Steven Joyce is spot on – if it really will deliver such a great return on investment, why don’t Infratil pay for it?

  9. Esjay, 27. November 2015, 10:24

    JC. No doubt you’ve not suffered from sleep disturbance as result of continual night time noise. Why do you think that a night time curfew at the airport was put in place? If its going to be long term gain, perhaps you should inform us of your plan.

  10. M Mulholland, 27. November 2015, 10:37

    Anyone willing to house swap during the three-year construction period? Maybe a councillor. Better still, the C.E O of the airport.

  11. Karl, 27. November 2015, 12:47

    Why are they not extending into the harbour, and why are they not dredging the seabed sand to reclaim the runway instead of moving unrealistic amounts of quarry rock? Has anybody had a look at how it’s done in other countries? How is the long term suitability of the airport in light of recent seismic and geological findings.

  12. Central City Voter, 27. November 2015, 14:34

    Shocking. Look forward to voting out the politicians behind this mad scheme.

  13. Matt, 27. November 2015, 15:48

    I live in the Eastern Suburbs. The raging winds are noisy. Extra trucks and digging won’t make a difference unless you are really close. Three years is a small price to pay for fantastic direct access to Asia , US and Dubai. No airline will commit until the thing is built. I say it’s a project worth, having especially in ten twenty thirty years time. This is long over due and couldn’t happen sooner.

  14. Southcoaster, 28. November 2015, 1:10

    Hey Matt – you think that you’ll get direct access to Asia, the US AND Dubai? And you’re happy to pay for it all without knowing if a single one of these fantastical flights will eventuate? As my mate Darryl Kerrigan would say: “You’re dreaming, mate”.

  15. Sophie, 28. November 2015, 22:10

    Barges, barges, barges

  16. Guy, 29. November 2015, 9:32

    Karl, they’ve done a huge amount of background work to this project, and they know what they are doing. Trust the experts. Why are they doing it from rock, and not from sand? Because rock boulders, at about a tonne each or more, will be more inclined to stay where they are placed, rather than sand from the sea bed, which will very swiftly collapse.
    Why are they extending to the south and not the north? Resource consenting issues, but a couple of main ones: they can’t have traffic in a tunnel to the north, as they need to be able to have a clear (non-tunnel) traffic route to the east. For obvious reasons, dangerous goods vehicles are forbidden from driving in tunnels. There is a fuel depot on the wharf just to the north east… The plane’s approach path to the north is also relatively low over the suburbs of Newlands etc. Extending the runway to the north means that planes would be lower, and closer to the houses to the north. Unlikely to be welcomed.

    Sophie – Barges? Wouldn’t that be lovely? Unfortunately, extending south, any barge from Petone would have to go out through the heads, south and around some of the more rocky and unpredictable waters, and back in again to Moa Point. Putting heavily laden, slow moving barges out through our main shipping channel? Just not going to happen.
    Sadly, any movement of rocks from the Petone to Grenada link Road, to Moa point, will have to be by trucks. It’s the only option. Actually, there is another option: buy up one of the south hills in Strathmore, and quarry that instead. May not be such a popular move amongst residents.

  17. Martin C, 29. November 2015, 11:12

    factual problem: heavy trucks cannot use the Terrace or Mt Victoria Tunnels, so they would have to pass through Oriental Bay and Evans Bay. This doesn’t negate the rest of the article.

  18. lindsay, 29. November 2015, 11:25

    So they wouldn’t be driving down Vivian Street? And the report is wrong when it states they’d be using SH1?

  19. Mike, 29. November 2015, 13:58

    Some facts:

    * dangerous goods vehicles can go through tunnels that are designed for such use, such as SH1 Victoria Park tunnel in Auckland, so there’s no reason why a tunnel at the north end of the runway could not be so designed, too;
    * heavy, slow barges loaded with dredgings have gone out through the heads before, so there’s no reason why this shouldn’t happen again;
    * it’s only the edge of the reclamation that’s rock, not the whole thing – material in the main body will be held by the solid edge, so it won’t collapse;
    * heavy trucks can and do use the Terrace and Mt Vic tunnels, and SH1 (not Oriental Bay) is the proposed trucking route to the airport, going back via Tirangi Rd, Coutts St, Bridge St, Rongotai Rd, Jean Batten St to Cobham Drive.

  20. Dr Sea Rotmann, 29. November 2015, 18:35

    The reason why it didn’t go north was purely economic – based on the 40m of soft shingle on the sea bed, it would have cost over $1b. Barges will be used as well as trucks.

  21. Esjay, 29. November 2015, 19:11

    All this info to build something that is a dream for Infratil. Imagine how their shareholders must feel. Money thrown at a project that at this stage is originating from elsewhere without affecting their dividend. As for the impact of construction on the wider community – WIAL has no conscience on this, as nothing overrides their objective. Build it now and others will sweat when it comes to a risk on financial investment.