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Whenuapai Airbase - Future Use

Whenuapai Airbase - Future Use

The Whenuapai Airbase Action Group (WAAG) is not surprised by the decision of the Auckland Regional Growth Forum to accept the findings of the Joint Officials Group, which supports a Commercial Airport at Whenuapai.

Should we have expected anything else when the Joint Officials Group comprised largely Waitakere City staff plus appointees and Mayor Bob Harvey with his cronies hadd been given 5 months to horse trade with other local authorities and lobby for their proposal.

Similar commercial airport arguments were put forward in Christchurch a few years ago when the Wigram Air Base closed. It does not take much imagination to propose that an abandoned Airbase can be converted into a Commercial Airport. But, does the Auckland Region really need a second commercial airport? Christchurch decided that it didn't and as a result a significant area of land was made available for commercial, recreational and residential use within close proximity to the city of Christchurch.

The ARC has announced that it will support the Growth Forum's position regarding Waitakere City's proposal for a Commercial Airport. However WAAG recently discovered through discussions with ARC officials that the ARC was fundamentally lacking in objective facts and knowledge about viable, innovative, environmentally sustainable, value creating options, for the use of the airbase land. WAAG views the Growth Forums support as just another late, ill researched submission to the NZ Defence Force consultative process that closed in January this year.

The question that WAAG will be putting to the Minister of Defence is; Why should the Growth Forum's submission carry any more weight than the 2000 submissions from members of the public who have overwhelmingly opposed the creation of a second commercial airport at Whenuapai and have supported alternative environmentally friendly uses for the land?

WAAG has consistently put forward the view that the Waitakere City proposal for a commercial airport isairport is simply an opportunistic commercial proposal. In other words it is really about Waitakere City, as a proposed shareholder in the public company Infratil, making money from the shares that it has been promised for supporting the proposal.

No one has produced any evidence that there is a need for a second airport for the Auckland Region. Auckland International Airport has stated that its present plans and projections will cope with expected air traffic for at least the next 50 years. The Whenuapai proposal is simply a commercial opportunity that Infratil and Waitakere want to exploit for profit, it has very little to do with whether Auckland actually NEEDS a second commercial airport.

It is no coincidence that on the day the ARC support for Waitakere's proposal was announced, Auckland International Airport shares fell on the NZ Stock Exchange by a similar amount to a rise in the value of Infratil shares.

The profits that the stock market investors are expecting to be transferred from Auckland International Airport to Infratil at Whenuapai will be at the expense of environmental noise, water and air pollution of the Upper Harbour Region, the North Shore and the Waitakere Ranges.

The 5,000 aircraft annual movements that the Airforce currently operates will need to increase to about 25,000 in order for Infratil to be profitable at Whenuapai. This would mean that more than 2000 families that are within the flight paths of Whenuapai (from Whenuapai, Herald Island and Greenhithe to the East Coast Bays) would be subjected to a five-fold increase in noise and air pollution. All this whithoutwithout a justifiable need, just so Infratil can satisfy its commercial profit making ambitions for its shareholders.

The duplication of airport infrastructure will add to the motorway congestion in the Auckland Region as passengers cross the city to change flights or obtain cheaper deals. The proposed Airport Maxx rail link will loose significant passenger numbers that are required to reach a critical mass of users for operational economies. The short-term difficulty with access to Mangere will be fixed with the $1.8 billion Western Ring Route Motorway connection (linking SH18, SH16 and SH20) due for completion about the time that Whenuapai becomes available for an alternative use.

WAAG claimsWAAG also thatclaims that there has not been any proper consultation between Waitakere City and the affected residents. ARC says that noise will be a key part of consultation with the community. Because of the significance of the Waitakere City \ Infratil proposal WAAG expectedWAAG expected that the ARC would have entered into consultation with the community before it made a decision to give it support. ARC no doubt has succumbed to business lobby groups, trying to appease them with a commercial airport, to offset the business differential rating policy U turn a few weeks ago.

Fortunately it is not the ARC or the Growth Forum that has the final decision regarding Whenuapai. That decision now rests with the Minister of Defence and the Cabinet who are well aware of the dreamy schemes that Mayor Bob Harvey has proposed in the past.

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