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Aucklanders Support Flights At Whenuapai

Thursday, 19 October 2006,

Aucklanders Support Commercial Flights

At Whenuapai By More Than Three-To-One

The majority of Aucklanders want to see commercial flights at Whenuapai as soon as possible.

That is the finding of a just-released poll which looks at attitudes towards establishing commercial flights out of the existing airforce base before the RNZAF relocates its operations.

In the north-west of the region, where the airport is located, support for the concept is running at more than four to one, and has increased since an earlier poll in 2004.

The poll was conducted for Waitakere City Council by market research company tns.

The latest poll measures the views of residents in the north west of the region, in Auckland central and in south Auckland.

Overall, 53% of residents in the Auckland region support the idea of commercial air services being developed at Whenuapai as soon as possible, compared to 15% who oppose the idea.

The main reasons for supporting the concept of commercial air services at Whenuapai are: quicker access (18%), facing less traffic congestion (10%) and cheaper airfares (11%)

The main reasons for opposing the concept were noise (4%) and belief that another airport is not needed (3%)

Most people (55%) believe that in five years it will take longer to drive to Auckland International Airport at Mangere because of growing traffic congestion and increasing population. Those who believe travel times will reduce (10%), mention completion of the motorway as the basis for their belief.

Only 36% say they would be likely to use a frequent public transport service running between the central city and Mangere, with 58% saying they would be unlikely to use it.

Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey is not surprised by the positive result. "There is already a fully functioning international airport at Whenuapai. Our armed services, government politicians and other overseas dignitaries use it regularly. But it is under-utilised. There are many examples both here in NZ and overseas where military operations run side by side with commercial flights and we simply want that option explored. Airports are well known economic "hubs"- just look at what Mangere has done for the local economy in the South. It just makes sense to use Whenuapai more efficiently."

Infratil says there is no reason why commercial flights cannot co-exist with military use of the airport, a common practice overseas, and there is no need to delay commercial flights until the air force completes its planned relocation to Ohakea in 2014.

The company says Whenuapai would only ever handle a fraction of the air traffic using Mangere, but would be very attractive to budget airlines servicing other New Zealand locations, the Pacific Islands and the eastern states of Australia, and offering cheaper fares.

BACKGROUND

- Waitakere City Council has a Heads of Agreement with respected international airport owner and manager Infratil to develop Whenuapai for commercial flights, and is offering North Shore City and Rodney District Council the opportunity of being involved in the venture. Infratil will contribute the necessary capital with the councils sharing in profitability. Waitakere has already begun the process of re-zoning the Whenuapai land as a special airport zone.

- In 2004 the Government decided to delay a decision on the future use of Whenuapai, after the NZ Defence Department concluded, following a public consultation process, that an airport was the best future use of the land.

- Whenuapai airport is already closer to more Aucklanders than Mangere, and there are many advantages in the north west of the having an airport, says Waitakere City Council. These include boosting tourism and offering better connectivity and reduced travelling times to business and individual travellers in the fastest growing part of the Auckland region.

- Three major business seminars held in the North West last year all endorsed the concept of commencing commercial flights at Whenuapai as soon as possible.

ENDS


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