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Give Commercial Airport At Whenuapai A Go

MEDIA RELEASE January 20, 2004

GIVE COMMERCIAL AIRPORT AT WHENUAPAI A GO BEFORE OTHER OPTIONS, URGES WAITAKERE CITY

Waitakere City Council has told the NZ Defence Force that testing the viability of a commercial airport at Whenuapai is the only sensible use of the existing airport when the Air Force relocates to Ohakea.

The Waitakere City submission points out that, under its agreement with listed public company Infratil, it is the company which is required to put up all of the capital needed to convert Whenuapai to commercial use. Neither the Crown of the Council is being asked to contribute development capital.

In a submission to the NZDF Waitakere City says testing the commercial model could possibly begin before the Air Force vacates, with mixed commercial and military operations over for the next few years.

The Waitakere submissions points out that half the Auckland region's population already lives closer to Whenuapai than Mangere, and says a commercial airport at Whenuapai would reduce motorway congestion and travel times. It assesses the value of these improvements to the Auckland region's economy at $341 million.

If a commercial airport proves not to be viable, despite current positive interest from airlines, then all of the other possible development options put forward by NZDF - including residential or industrial development - will still be available.

However, if a real estate development is selected, involving destroying the existing airport infrastructure, the Auckland region will have lost forever its best chance of establishing a second airport.

The Council submission says turning Whenuapai into a giant development site by destroying the airport, would come at a substantial price.

Just removing the broken up concrete to dispose of the runways could involve 200 truck movements every day for a year.

The bare land eventually created would have no strategic value without the airport. It lies outside the areas earmarked by Council for future residential and commercial use, and the existence of bare land, of itself, would be unlikely to attract the new industries and commercial activities needed to help make up the economic loss of the Air Force withdrawal.

Waitakere City and Infratil's proposal for a commercial airport involves an associated commercial and industrial development. Waitakere City says this model will attract new businesses and create employment, as well as giving new benefits to existing businesses and tourist ventures in the north west.

The submission says that real estate development on its own, having first destroyed the airport, will not produce comparable benefits to the commercial airport/development model.

The submission also says that a commercial airport is the quickest option to get up and running. The protracted procedures required under the Public Works Act could mean the land might otherwise lie undeveloped for decades.

A report commissioned from the NZ Institute of Economic Research last year concluded that the closure of Whenuapai Airport would have a negative impact within Waitakere City of $230 million a year, with some 1600 associated job losses.

Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey today called for common sense over the future of the Whenuapai airport assets.

"It is a wonderful asset, superbly located near motorway, rail and water, and it just makes sense with our partners to have a go at converting it to commercial use, with an associated business park, working with Infratil and the Crown.

"We want to create employment for more of our people within the region, and to reduce the number of people who have to travel down the motorway each morning to find employment - or to fly to Wellington. A successful commercial airport at Whenuapai, with appropriate surrounding development would provide a major economic and employment boost to the north west.

* A region wide professional survey conducted in December showed that 77% of Aucklanders either support or do not oppose a commercial airport at Whenuapai, while only 13% oppose the concept.

The submission says opposition is to be expected from the owner of the monopoly airport at Mangere, but competition would be good for the region and for travelers, and might delay the need for major expenditure on a second runway at Mangere.

NOTE:

A copy of the submission and supporting appendices are available on www.waitakere.govt.nz

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