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Airbase Closure Would Take $235 Million A Year

Airbase Closure Would Take $235 Million A Year Out Of Local Economy Says Report

The closure of Whenuapai Air Base will take some $235 million a year and more than1600 jobs out of the local economy.

These are the main findings of a report on the social and economic impacts of closing Whenuapai, to be considered by Waitakere City Council this evening (Wednesday, August 27).

The report has been prepared by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research and Corydon Consultants Limited and was commissioned by the city’s economic development agency Enterprise Waitakere. The City has established a Mayoral Task Force to evaluate the city’s options when the Air Force finally leaves Whenuapai Base for Ohakea in less than five years.

The government is set to receive, next month, a report on options for disposing of the Whenuapai land and facilities.

The Council is promoting the concept of developing Whenuapai as a second commercial airport for the greater Auckland region, and has already been in discussion on the concept with other local bodies, including North Shore and Rodney, and government departments such as the Ministry of Economic Development and the Ministry of Defence.

Earlier this year, Waitakere City signed a Memorandum of Understanding with listed public company Infratil for the development and management of the airport as a commercial operation, should Government and other necessary approvals be granted for the concept.

The NZIER report puts the value of the direct economic activity created by the Base at $102.7 million a year, and estimates the flow-on effect will be a further decline of $132.2 million a year.

Similarly, the loss of 1,067 full time equivalent jobs on the Air Force Base would be likely to be accompanied by the loss of a further 586 jobs in Waitakere and parts of the North Shore and Rodney Firms supplying goods and services to the Base will be most affected.

The closure of the Base could result directly in hundreds of houses coming up for sale, falls in school rolls and negative impacts on local recreation groups.
The report notes that Whenuapai has been downsizing since 1992, and the full impact of the withdrawal of the Air Force will be spread over the next few years, which will help reduce the impact of closure.

Mayoral Task Force head Bryan Mogridge says the NZIER report quantifies the drastic impact the closure of Whenuapai Airport would have on the region, but this is not the only reason for advocating the conversion of Whenuapai to a commercial airport.

“From the initial work we have done, the business case for a second commercial airport in the region is compelling.

“Whenuapai is readily accessible for more people than Mangere, and a second airport in the north would make a huge contribution to easing traffic congestion as the region’s population to increases.

“If the opportunity of converting Whenuapai to commercial use is passed up, it is difficult to see the region obtaining resource consents for 300 hectares for flat land north of the bridge and adjacent to motorway access for an alternative second airport in the future.”

Mr Mogridge said his Task Force will continue to work with the Government on the merits of converting Whenuapai to a commercial airport, and will also promote the concept within the greater Auckland region.

“The Air Force leaving Whenuapai creates a giant problem for Waitakere but it also creates a significant opportunity for the greater Auckland region to secure a vital strategic asset.

“Ultimately the outcome is in the hands of Government, as owner of the land, and we look forward to working closely with them on evaluating the merits of a second commercial airport for the region.”

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