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Legal Issues probable cause in Whenuapai delay

WAAG Press Release - 26 October 2004

Legal Issues regarding Whenuapai probable cause in delay in announcement

A statement by Jim Anderton on 19 October 2004, said that there would be a delay until late November 2004 in announcing the Government's decision regarding the future use of Whenuapai airbase. This delay was to allow Infrastructure Ministers to obtain answers to a number of issues and confirms information WAAG already has on file.

In January 2004 the then Waitakere City Deputy Mayor Carolynne Stone stated in a letter to a WAAG Committee Member: "It is our (Waitakere City) analysis that, unless the Government chooses to enact special legislation, or has another public work, then there will continue to be an operational airport at Whenuapai."

It is apparent that even though there is no evidence of the Auckland Region actually needing a second commercial airport, Waitakere City could exploit a section of the Public Works and compulsorily acquire the Whenuapai Airbase land based on the precedent that was set with its claim against the Government in respect of the Hobsonville Airbase.

The Government has already sent a clear message that it does not favour a second commercial airport at Whenuapai. On 18 February 2003 Hansard records that in reply to a question from Dail Jones, Dr Michael Cullen stated: "I think that the member can rest assured that the Prime Minister will not be following Mayor Bob Harvey's suggestion about Whenuapai Airport".

It is for these reasons that WAAG believes that the delay in the Government's announcement of a decision is related to issues concerning a possible legal challenge from Waitakere City rather than further analysis as to whether or not the Auckland Region actually needs a second commercial airport. It should be remembered that the second Auckland airport question was the primary matter for MED research as set out in the statement made by Jim Anderton on 7th July 2004. To date there has not been a shred of evidence produced by anyone to support the need for a second airport for the Auckland Region. When meeting with WAAG Committee members in September 2004 MED staff appeared satisfied with the Auckland International Airport (AIA) plans and projections to handle the estimated growth in air travel over the next 50 years.

Waitakere City however, seems determined to exploit a commercial opportunity to develop a commercial airport at Whenuapai mainly based on travel delays to Auckland International Airport from Waitakere and North Shore City at peak traffic hours.

The $2.8 billion currently being spent on new Auckland Motorways by Transit NZ will provide a Western Ring Route from Albany to Manukau via AIA. This will be largely completed before the Airbase becomes available in about 6 years time. The Western Ring Route will mean significantly improved vehicle access to Mangere and the elimination of any justification for a second commercial airport on the grounds of current difficulties with traffic problems at certain times of the day.

The introduction of a second airport would cause additional burden on the regions grid locked motorway system by passengers criss-crossing Auckland to connect with other flights.

Air New Zealand has recently made it very clear that they will not operate from Whenuapai as a second airport. Virgin Airlines has expressed interest in Whenuapai probably only as a commercial ploy to leverage a cheaper deal during their negotiations with AIA for facilities at Mangere.

Recent press statements by local Labour MPs David Cunliffe and John Tamihere that were published in the Sunday Star Times on Sunday 17 October 2004, stated that a commercial airport would not be viable without a substantial commercial development to go along with it.

A commercial development without a commercial airport at Whenuapai makes even better sense because the airbase land is about the same size as Albany basin and could sustain as many as 12,000 jobs. Waitakere City needs local jobs for its citizens to move from being a dormitory suburb to a self-sufficient city. A commercial airport at Whenuapai that is the size of Hamilton Airport would only create approximately 120 jobs.

It is clear that the Infratil \ Waitakere City Consortium needs the airbase at a peppercorn rental or a knockdown fire sale price to have any chance a viability which in effect is a NZ Taxpayer subsidised operation. The NZ Taxpayers will also be required to fund the Airport Bio and Terrorist Security costs and Immigration and Customs plus improvements to road access.

There are a number of other alternative uses for the airbase land and these should be more fully explored once the "no airport" decision is announced.

We suggest that Waitakere forget the `lame duck' commercial airport proposal and that they get on with researching the utilisation of the airbase land for a commercial development along with public parks and recreational areas in a manner, which is both economically viable and environmentally friendly.

Note for Editors:

The Whenuapai Airport Action Group (WAAG) represents Residents & Ratepayers from Whenuapai, Herald Island, Greenhithe, Paremoremo and Albany as well as concerned residents across the North Shore.

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