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Ohakea runway to be upgraded to civilian standard

Friday 12 July 2002 Media Statement

Ohakea runway to be upgraded to civilian aircraft standard

Government approval has been given for the reconstruction of the runway at Ohakea Air Force Base, to a standard that will allow for possible future regular use by civilian as well as military aircraft, Defence Minister Mark Burton said.

Mark Burton today revealed details of the upgrade plans at a meeting with Vision Manawatu and the Manawatu Defence Cluster in Palmerston North. Vision Manawatu is an incorporated Trust supported and funded by local and regional authorities, Massey University and Manawatu businesses, which seeks to further economic development in the region.

"Vision Manawatu believes that an air transport cargo hub would be a crucial boost to development in the region, and that access to RNZAF Base Ohakea offers a cost-effective solution. Local Labour MPs and candidates Steve Maharey, Jill Pettis and Margaret Hayward have made strong representations in support of this development.

"Last year the government announced its commitment to Ohakea as the NZDF's primary air base, and to an upgrade of the runway at Ohakea for military purposes. Now, approval has been given for a reconstruction plan that will accommodate regular use by heavy aircraft – civilian and military."

Mark Burton said that the runway would be upgraded to Pavement Classification Number (PCN) 65. (Ohakea currently has a PCN of 42. For comparison, Wellington Airport has a PCN of 60 and Auckland Airport PCN 65.)

"An upgrade to PCN 50 would have been sufficient for all current and anticipated military purposes. However, the higher standard 'future proofs' Ohakea for economic development opportunities.

"The estimated total project cost remains within the $23 million estimated in the Defence Long-Term Development Plan. The final cost will be determined by a competitive tender process and tenders are now being called.

"The reconstructed runway would be able to cater for regular use by most commercial aircraft – other than fully laden Boeing 747s, which would require a runway extension. The upgrade approved by the government allows for a possible future extension of the runway, if demand is shown to exist.

"If the runway was not upgraded to PCN 65, then future growth options would be denied.

"A practical across-government approach has been taken on this issue," Mark Burton said. "NZDF will get a runway which meets all their operational requirements, and the Manawatu/Wanganui region gets a key economic development opportunity."

Final Cabinet approval will be sought once the tenders have been evaluated, and it is expected that the runway upgrade will proceed this summer.

The Minister also took the opportunity to update the Defence Cluster on progress with the Maritime Force Project, indicating that the ITR (Invitation to Register) for the provision of new navy ships would be issued to industry in the next two weeks.

ENDS

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