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Council gets legal advice about Whenuapai

Council gets legal advice about Whenuapai

Growing concern about the future use of the Whenuapai Airbase has led North Shore City Council to get legal advice about whether a commercial airport could set up there.

The designation for the land in Waitakere City's district plan allows the RNZAF to use it for defence purposes. The Ministry of Defence has indicated that it will vacate the site by 2006, but has not confirmed whether it will remove the designation entirely, or only over a part of the airbase. If the designation is removed it may be possible for an activity that is the same or similar in character, intensity and scale to what is allowed under the existing designation to claim existing use rights and use the land without the need for a resource consent.

While there is no firm decision or proposal at the moment for what the land might be used for, a number of ideas have been suggested including that of a commercial airport or residential housing. The North Shore City Council has asked its lawyers to advise whether a commercial aircraft activity could be allowed at the airbase under existing use rights.

Because of the uncertainty surrounding the future of the land, the Council's legal advice is fairly constrained at this stage. If a commercial airport operation wanted to use the land, and sought to do this under existing use rights, the designation would need to be removed from the relevant part of the airbase and an expert assessment would be needed to decide whether the effects of the new airport would be the same or similar in character, intensity and scale to that of the current operation.

North Shore City's strategy and finance committee chairperson, Tony Holman, says the council is keeping a close eye on what happens.

"We want to make sure this is a public process and are urging all parties involved in deciding on the future use of the land to consult the community and local residents," he says.

"While there are no proposals on the table at the moment, we want to ensure we have a good understanding of what is possible and have the opportunity to respond. Council will want to be involved so that it can robustly represent this City's position" says Councillor Holman.

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