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Airport wants to re-start process for runway extension

Thursday 29 September 2016 11:15 AM

Wellington Airport wants to re-start resource consent for runway extension

By Sophie Boot

Sept. 29 (BusinessDesk) - Wellington International Airport has asked the city and regional councils to re-start its application to extend the runway.

The airport wants to build a 350-metre runway extension in a bid to attract long-haul flights from Asia and the United States, at a cost of $300 million. The airport's 66 percent controlling shareholder, Infratil, is pushing for central and local government funding to cover most of the capital costs, arguing the investment is in the national and regional interest while not being viable on a standalone commercial basis. Wellington City Council owns the remaining third.

The airport applied for consent in April, with public submissions for resource consent closed in mid-August, but the application was suspended to allow experts "further time to consider others’ views before moving forward" to Environment Court hearings, it said in a statement.

Chief executive Steve Sanderson said he was confident the airport could address all the key concerns through its proposed conditions and management plans.

"The Environment Court will need to weigh up these matters, the mitigation proposed and the overall benefits of the project when it comes to consider the application," Sanderson said. "There is widespread support from the business community, tertiary and education institutions, tourism organisations, the creative and film sector, and individuals all submitting on the benefits they see for the region."

Sanderson said the airport was confident in analysis done by Sapere Research Group which showed a national net economic benefit of $2.3 billion from the runway extension.

Almost every airline operating to and from New Zealand is opposed to the proposed extension. The national carrier, Air New Zealand, is particularly opposed as it structures its long-haul international routes through Auckland.

Airlines who would benefit from the extended runway would need a major hub in Asia or North America as the consents sought would enable direct long-haul services from Wellington to those destinations.

When announcing the initial consent application in April, Sanderson said it was not surprising Air New Zealand and Qantas Airways have both said they wouldn't use the runway, as they don't have hubs in those locations, and the viability of the plan did not depend on their support.

"As expected with any project like this, some members of the community remain concerned about aspects of the project," Sanderson said today. "Of course we acknowledge that a project of this nature will raise concerns, and we remain open to discussing additional ways of mitigating the effects of the project."

(BusinessDesk)

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