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Airport two-stage plan, with Paraparaumu long-term

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Airport development is a two-stage plan, with Paraparaumu presenting the long-term future

Wellington, September 2

Wellington Airport needs to grow its business in the immediate term, says mayoral candidate Jack Yan, but long-term, the solution lies in Paraparaumu.

Mr Yan, who was the first candidate to propose that the airport runway should be extended in his manifesto, says that the business case must be very sound so that the impact on ratepayers is minimal, and that Wellingtonians receive a decent return on investment. He believes the business case can be improved, beyond the projections offered so far by Infratil, which believes ratepayers would have to fund the airport to hundreds of millions.

However, in 30 years’ time, should there be amalgamation, Mr Yan foresees the airport being elsewhere, with a high-speed rail link between the Kapiti Coast and Wellington’s CBD.

‘We heard a few years back that the next generation of planes will be able to make use of Wellington's short runway but that hasn't attracted any new airlines here,’ he notes.

‘Further, Council already has a long-haul development fund, aimed at attracting new airlines here. Of course, no airline has taken up the offer.’

Mr Yan says that successive councils have not been active in negotiating on two fronts: to open new markets for Air New Zealand overseas to compensate for the loss of the lucrative Wellington–Auckland route for international travellers; and to attract new airlines here actively.

He says his international business experience, including his work in Asia, can present a more compelling case for airlines.

It is what he calls a two-stage plan: to leverage Wellington Airport to attract global players and allowing current airlines to take on international destination, while, depending on the pace of regionalization, develop Paraparaumu Airport for international long-haul.

‘The attitude at the moment seems to be “build it and they will come”, when really we need a good, strong business case to go to central government, to go to private investors with and say, “We think there is a good case here,”’ he says.

‘The other issue at play is whether it is economically viable to fly shorter body aircraft long-haul to Wellington, when larger planes can be flown to Christchurch and Auckland, generating greater economies of scale, even with passengers needing to take connecting flights.

‘To overcome this obstacle, we may wish to investigate upgrading Paraparaumu airport, which wouldn’t require anywhere near the amount of capital Wellington International does.

‘Paraparaumu Airport, sadly, is not as convenient as the existing airport for many Wellington city residents, but we can overcome this issue through investing in a high speed rail link to the airport.

Mr Yan adds, ‘This would likely present a stronger business case, especially with the likelihood of regional amalgamation. Seventy per cent of the region's population lives north of Wellington City and if you examine the growth patterns, that growth is occurring on the northern corridor along the coast, from Wellington to Kapiti.

‘A high-speed rail link along here would not only provide transit for rail passengers, but also for commuters living in these areas. Wellington City Council's amalgamation proposal sees the city as continuing to be the hub of economic development in the region for the long-term, so it's important to have the right infrastructure to achieve this.’

Mr Yan says that if central government is expected to help fund the upgrade, then a $200 million investment for Paraparaumu would deliver a better return than adding 300 m to the existing Wellington Airport runway.

Steven Joyce indicated last week that central government would not be contributing funding to a runway extension in Wellington, so other options which have greater benefit to cost ratios need to be explored, Mr Yan said, prompting his Paraparaumu suggestion.


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