13 December 2004
Mayoral Taskforce head Bryan Mogridge is not surprised at news the Defence Force is to remain at Whenuapai Airbase for at least four years.
Some two years ago the government announced all personnel would be moving to Ohakea, with the subsequent loss of around $230 million a year from the local economy. In an effort to replace that void Waitakere City Council campaigned for the base to be retained as a commercial airport.
Today however the Minister of Economic Development, Hon Jim Anderton, said the consolidation of Air Force operations would not be completed until at least 2010 and possibly as late as 2014.
“The Air Force has been an integral part of this community for decades and the whole city was disappointed personnel were to be shipped out,” says Mr Mogridge.
“We simply had to come up with a Plan B and a commercial airport operation just makes sense. But the news they are staying in the medium term at least is a nice Christmas present for Waitakere City.
“Today’s announcement, whilst not entirely unexpected, has brought some short term certainty to residents in the area. This wasn’t just about economics but a lot of social infrastructure, from scout groups to the local primary school were going to be affected by the loss of Air Force personnel and their families.”
Mr Mogridge adds the city
was pleased to be able to work positively with the
government, in particular Mr Anderton and his officials over
the past 12 months.
“This hasn’t been a wasted exercise – between now and when the land is declared surplus to requirements we have a plan of action to move forward on.”
Mr Mogridge says the City will continue to work with NZ Defence. “We are pleased that we are not going to lose the economic value from the base, but over the past few months we have proved that airports are major drivers for economic growth. There are significant opportunities around joint commercial and military use which would be a much more efficient utilisation of the taxpayers’ asset. We will continue to pursue that.”