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Economic and social impact of Base closure

Council considers economic and social impact of Base closure

Waitakere City Council last night expressed deep concern at the economic and social impact that the closure of Whenuapai air base will have.

The government has announced that the base will be downsized and moved to Ohakea within five years.

At a meeting last night (August 27), the Council considered a report from economic analysts NZIER, showing the closure at Whenuapai would see the loss of around 1060 jobs and cost the City around $235 million in economic activity every year.

“The loss of a major institution like this is a hell of a blow to any community,” says Mayor Bob Harvey. “Not only is the economic activity vital for our local economy- and the economy of the Auckland region as a whole- but the social impacts also can’t be under-estimated. School rolls will be cut, a number of well-qualified and respected teachers will go and organisations like scouts and sports clubs will also lose membership. Those sorts of social organisations are the glue that holds any community together.”

Mayor Harvey likens the base closure to Tokoroa losing its mill and the City of North Shore losing the Naval Base at Devonport.

“This isn’t just a place of work,” he says. “It has been the hub of the community for 60 years.”

Last night the Council also expressed its concern that the closure of the airbase will hinder the capability of the Auckland region’s civil defence capacity should a major emergency such as a earthquake occur.

The Council has set up a taskforce, headed by its economic development agency Enterprise Waitakere to assess the impacts of the closure and to work with the government on future options.

The Council would like to see the facilities retained and commercialised as a second airport for the Auckland region.

“Clearly, something will be needed to fill the huge hole that the closure will leave,” says Mayor Harvey.

“We have been working closely with government officials and have the support of our own local members of parliament. Whatever happens has to be done right and with the long-term in view, and we look forward to continuing to work with government on this hugely important issue.”

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