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Environment Court judicial conference on Wellington Airport

UPDATE: Environment Court to hold judicial conference over Wellington Airport runway extension concerns

(Updates, recasts with added detail)

By Sophie Boot

March 19 (BusinessDesk) - The Environment Court will hold a judicial conference in April to hear concerns about Wellington International Airport's adjournment request for its planned runway extension.

The airport asked the court to adjourn its resource consent application for its 355-metre runway extension a further nine months, giving it time to re-apply to the Director of Civil Aviation for approval, prompting the court to ask for comment from interested parties. The proposal has run into legal trouble after the Supreme Court ruled last year that the planned runway end safety area (RESA) of 90 metres, which had been approved by the director of the Civil Aviation Authority, was too short.

Environment Court Judge Brian Dwyer said he was conscious of the costs to all parties involved, but had a number of concerns about the airport's request for further adjournment, including the ongoing delay in processing the application, which was first filed in April 2016; the impact of the delay on the accuracy or relevance of the supporting information; the uncertain nature of the RESA proposal which the airport will put to the CAA; the uncertainty about whether the CAA will give approval and how that might impact on the application in front of the court, and how long the CAA's decision might take.

In a statement to BusinessDesk, a spokesperson for the airport said it is preparing information for the CAA using the Supreme Court’s guidance, which didn't stipulate a specific length that the RESA should be.

"If, following reapplication to the CAA, a new safety length is adopted that is within the distance of the existing application then the Environment Court could consider that we could proceed with our current application," he said. "Alternatively, the CAA may assess that a longer RESA is required. In this instance, our current Environment Court application may not be sufficient and further assessments and consultation would be required."

Judge Dwyer said that the Wellington City Council and Wellington Regional Council jointly supported the request for the adjournment but raised the possible need for further notification of the application, while Strathmore Park Progressive and Beautifying Assn Inc opposed the request and "appears to seek that a fresh application be made once the requirements of the Director General of Civil Aviation (the DG) as to RESA length have been settled."

Residents group Guardians of the Bays requested the airport's current application be withdrawn and replaced by a fresh application with updated supporting reports, irrespective of whether the proposal remains unchanged as a result of the CAA's determination.

"Alternatively it seeks directions as to clarification of the RESA proposal being submitted to the DG for approval and monthly reporting requirements," Judge Dwyer said. "Air NZ Ltd and the Board of Airline Representatives of New Zealand Inc support the position of the Guardians."

The Guardians of the Bay and the two councils have also raised issues about further public notification, "but it is not clear to the court what power it has to direct this", Judge Dwyer said.

The judge said the court will hear from the Breaker Bay & Moa Point Progressive Association at the conference, should it wish to appear, though it hasn't determined the group's application to join as an interested party. The judge asked the airport to advise whether it will maintain its opposition to the group participating in the proceedings.


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