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Waitakere Urges Prompt Whenuapai Evaluation

Waitakere urges prompt evaluation of commercial airport proposal at Whenuapai

Waitakere City and Infratil says any remaining evaluation of the merits and impacts of a small commercial airport at Whenuapai should be carried out as soon as possible

In a statement today, welcoming the Government's announcement that there will be continuing investigation of the commercial airport option by several Government departments, the joint partners in the airport proposal urged avoidance of unnecessary delay.

Bryan Mogridge, chairman of Waitakere's Mayoral Task Force on Whenuapai, says the north west is already beginning to feel the negative financial impacts of the Air Force winding down its Whenuapai activities, estimated to rise to $230 million a year when the withdrawal of the Air Force withdraws completely.

Mr Mogridge said a number of professional opinion polls had shown strong public support for a commercial airport at Whenuapai, a concept also supported by the Regional Growth Forum, various Auckland Councils and their business units and Civil Defence.

"Support is particularly strong in the north west where a survey earlier this year showed two thirds of the public wants the Government to get commercial flights operating at Whenuapai as soon as possible."

Mr Mogridge urged that completion of any further evaluation work needed should be given a high priority, and carried out simultaneously, that the financial and employment benefits of successful commercial air services could begin flowing as soon as possible.

"The process of applying for resource consents and other necessary approvals will produce some of the information still required and give the opportunity for further public input. It is in the interests of everyone to achieve certainty as soon as possible, on whether a commercial airport can proceed at Whenuapai.

Infratil spokesman Tim Brown says the ideal scenario is for commercial flights to be building up at the same time as Air Force use of Whenuapai is winding down.

There are many successful examples of military and civilian shared use of airport facilities. "A successful commercial airport at would Whenuapai preserve the option of future military and Civil Defence use of the facilities."

Mr Brown said Infratil, which will contribute all of the necessary development capital for a commercial airfield, is not looking for a "sweetheart deal" from the Government on the land, and is looking forward to negotiations to arrive at an outcome which is fair to all parties.

"There is no doubt that a commercial airfield is the option which will enable the Government and the Region to create the greatest continuing value from the land."

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