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Council kick-starts airport extension

23 May 2013

Council kick-starts airport extension

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said today that a runway extension is crucial to attracting long-haul international flights to the Capital City and will grow the economy of the lower North Island.

The Wellington City Council proposes to contribute half of the estimated $2 million cost of putting the proposal through the RMA approvals process.

“Wellington International Airport is Wellington’s key strategic asset and gateway to the world. It’s appropriate that Council helps kick-start the process to get this major infrastructure project moving,” she says.

“I endorse Council contributing to the costs of the RMA process. The short and long term benefits to Wellington of a runway extension are significant. BERL calculates the direct economic benefit to the region at more than $43 million a year with more than 300 construction jobs created,” she says.

“Council’s Wellington 2040: Smart Capital vision includes a significant focus on Wellington being a connected city, both physical and virtual. This initiative will deliver a major improvement for the Capital’s connectivity – we need flights as well as bytes!”

Economic Development Portfolio Leader Jo Coughlan says “Long-haul international air connections – most likely to South East Asia - are considered essential to support economic growth in the region.

“Long-haul connectivity is key to the Wellington Regional Strategy and the City Council’s own Economic Development Strategy.

“Direct flights to Asia would major opportunities for the likes of the business and education sectors. The potential economic benefit from doubling the number of international students in Wellington alone is estimated at $70 million per annum,” says Cr Coughlan.

Mayor Wade-Brown says the Capital’s creative and digital sectors are flourishing. “Direct international air links from Wellington to destinations further than Australia will be a huge boost for the Wellington region as it will be easier to do business in the Capital.”

She says an RMA approvals process would establish with certainty the ability to extend the runway and the cost to complete the project, and enable the business case for investment and the funding options for the investment required to be finalised.

Wellington International Airport CEO Steve Sanderson says: “Over 1,000 people fly in and out of Wellington to a long haul destination through another airport.

“The highly mobile and affluent market will support daily long haul flights and improving Wellington’s international connectivity will deliver the economic growth the region is crying out for,” he says.

The Wellington City Council will consider a contribution of up to $1 million toward the consenting process necessary at a full Council meeting on 29 May. If approved, the Council contribution would be funded from under-spending in the 2012/13 financial year.

The runway extension was included within the airport’s 2030 Master Plan. The length of the extension required to enable long-haul flights to land and depart Wellington with full loads is about 300 metres and would involve reclamation into Evans Bay.

A report for Councillors says that to move this project from being a conceptual part of the Master Plan, and enable detailed design work, costings, business cases and funding options to be developed, WIAL believes it is necessary to seek the necessary consents for the project.

The process would involve a range of workstreams including engineering and aviation design; coastal processes; landscaping; traffic design; noise and recreation impacts; archaeology and cultural effects; alternatives; and consultation.

WIAL says proceeding with the consent process is a necessary first step to lift the proposed extension from a conceptual level to a definable project. This would provide certainty around the ability to deliver the project and enable work to be completed on the business case and funding of any extension.

ENDS

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