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Cabinet confirms plans for Whenuapai


Hon Dr Wayne Mapp
Minister of Defence
31 March 2009

Cabinet confirms plans for Whenuapai

Cabinet has confirmed the retention of Whenuapai as an active Air Force base. The decision reverses the previous Government’s intention to consolidate the Air Force’s operations at Ohakea in the Manawatu.

Defence Minister Wayne Mapp said that Cabinet had also approved a three-year $60 million essential work programme on the base to make it fully operational again. The runways and hardstanding areas will be rebuilt and a programme of workshop reconstruction and planning for new fuel storage will be put in place.

“Whenuapai suffered a decade of neglect under Labour,” Dr Mapp said. “This work is a long-term investment which will future-proof the base for several decades. Contractors in the region will welcome the work.”

Dr Mapp said that the decision to upgrade Whenuapai also reflects the Government’s commitment to improving New Zealand's infrastructure, and sits alongside elements of its Jobs and Growth plan, such as the recent announcement of $484 million to fast-track several roading, schooling and housing projects.

“Investing in quality infrastructure creates jobs, helps take the sharp edges off the current recession and prepares the economy for future growth once conditions improve.

“About a thousand people work at Whenuapai. This means their jobs are safe, and maintains the Air Force’s high visibility in the Auckland region.”

Dr Mapp said that having two operational Air Force bases was preferable to one congested location.

“Having two bases provides greater long-term flexibility. It makes sense for the Air Force’s maritime capabilities (the Orions and Seasprite helicopters) to stay close to the Navy’s Devonport base.

“The Cabinet decision also reaffirmed National Party policy, that Whenuapai would be used for Defence purposes. There will not be any scheduled civil air services at Whenuapai.

“The decision to retain Whenuapai as an Air Force base will end the uncertainty for both the Defence Force and the local community,” he said.

ENDS

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