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Whenuapai report must consider environmental impac


8 July, 2004

Whenuapai report must consider environmental impact

Auckland Green MP Keith Locke says the environmental impact of a second commercial airport for Auckland at Whenuapai has yet to be adequately assessed.

"A second airport would provide local jobs but could also stamp a huge ecological footprint across Auckland," said Mr Locke, the Green Party's Auckland Transport spokesperson, who is calling for an environmental impact study to be included in the Economic Development Ministry's report on the project.

"It's not just a question of Whenuapai substituting civilian flights for military ones," Mr Locke pointed out. "A huge development of the airport and the surrounding area would be needed to duplicate the facilities at Mangere, with a big customs, passenger, servicing and freight-handling infrastructure.

"What is now a pleasant rural environment, beyond the urban limit, wouldn't remain in that idyllic condition for long." Mr Locke said an environmental impact report was essential, before turning the green space into a commercial airport or into one of the proposed alternatives, such as an industrial park or intensive housing.

Mr Locke also questioned whether a second airport would actually relieve Auckland's traffic congestion.

"In fact, there might be more freight on the roads, " said Keith Locke. "Exporters, importers and freight handlers are unlikely to desert Mangere and would instead maintain facilities at both airports, creating 'between airport' traffic, which passengers transferring between the airports would only add to.

"Secondly, although the new airport would be more accessible for locals, it will be further away for many of its passengers, particularly if it becomes a base for niche players like Pacific Blue, which will draw customers from across the region."

Mr Locke said the best way to make the existing airport more accessible to Aucklanders was to provide better public transport to Mangere, which would also reduce congestion on the roads.

"We urgently need a direct rail connection from the West to Mangere airport via the south-western corridor," said Mr Locke. "The new North Shore Busway will get people to downtown Auckland quicker, but we need a rail connection from there to Mangere.

"Finally, an environmental impact study should also consider rising oil prices, which may spell an end to cheap air travel and reduce passenger loads. We don't want to be left with two largely empty airports.

"There is no urgency for a decision on what to do with Whenuapai," said Mr Locke. "The Government should consider all the options, get more public input - and then make the right decision."

ENDS

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