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Airport Safety Must Have Priority Over Mega-Stores

20 June 2002

Green Transport Spokesperson Sue Kedgley today called on Wellington International Airport to delay its plans to build a new $30 million Airport Retail park next to the airport, and invest the money instead in upgrading Wellington airport's runway so that it complies with new international runway safety rules.

"Airport safety must come ahead of building 12 new mega-stores. The Airline Pilots Association has repeatedly expressed its concerns about Wellington airport's 'black star' runway, yet no action whatsoever has been taken" she said.

Ms Kedgley said the International Civil Aviation Authority had issued a new rule four years ago requiring all international airports to have a minimum run-off area of 90 metres at either end of any runway.

"Wellington airport's runway fails these new safety standards by a long shot. The runway is 30 metres short at either end. And at both ends there are a series of hazards - steep drops, boulders, power lines, traffic - which could turn a simple overrun at the airport into an aviation disaster."

Ms Kedgley said it was irresponsible that the Airport Company would potentially put lives at risk by failing to comply with new ICAO standards for runway safety areas, while at the same time spending $30 million on building a shopping complex.

Ms Kedgley said there had been repeated calls for the last 15 years to remove these hazards and bridge both ends of the runway. An expert study commissioned by the Wellington Airport board in 1994 recommended this be done 'without delay.'

"Instead of responding, successive airport boards have procrastinated, arguing that the airport company simply could not afford to spend $10 - 20 million upgrading its runway safety ends so they are safe and compliant with international safety rules.

"Now, having spent $85 million on a new terminal, it is proposing to spend $30 million on a new shopping complex. This is outrageous."

Ms Kedgley said the airport company's misplaced priorities were placing passengers at unnecessary risk.

"The Airport Company must put the safety of passengers ahead of commercial interests and forgo the shopping complex until the airport has a safer runway that meets international safety standards."


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