Wellington City Council votes to fund runway consenting work

17 December 2014

Wellington City Council has tonight voted to contribute $1.95 million to start the formal consenting process associated with the proposal to extend Wellington Airport’s runway by 350 metres.

Deputy Mayor Justin Lester says the contribution – to be matched by Wellington International Airport Ltd (WIAL) – will fund the estimated $5.9 million cost of a resource consent application to an Environmental Protection Agency board of inquiry.

He says Wellington Airport has collated enough information to confirm the viability and possibility of a runway extension to the south to proceed with confidence. “However planning permission – in other words resource consent – is essential if a fully-robust business case for the extension is to be completed.”

Last year the Council – which owns a 34% share of the airport company - voted to contribute half of the then estimated $2 million cost of a consenting process. Cr Lester says the increase in cost recognises the extra expense of an EPA board of inquiry process which was not considered in 2013 estimates.

He says the EPA process would, however, lead to a quicker consent decision and more planning certainty than if the runway application was processed through the local authority consenting process.

Wellington Airport has agreed the City Council will not be asked to contribute further funding to the consenting process.

Councillor Jo Coughlan, Chair of the Council’s Economic Growth Committee, seconded tonight’s funding recommendation. She says the $1.95 million contribution would be funded from a forecast increased dividend from Wellington Airport to the Council and is conditional on it being received.

“I’m comfortable with the call for this contribution – the planning process is always going to be expensive given the fact we need a very well-prepared application that covers all the bases in terms of environmental impacts.

“I’m also confident that the runway proposal has huge support from around central New Zealand. We want to unlock the region’s economic potential. Wellingtonians are increasingly frustrated that the region is being held back by the fact long-haul services cannot realistically fly into and out of the Capital City.

“We’re told repeatedly by exporters, tourism operators, our creative sector, our universities – even the diplomatic community – that they want direct and frequent international access to the Capital.

“A runway extension and long-haul flights are strategic priorities for Wellington and the region. It’s all about keeping our local economy competitive and growing.

“In China alone there are 300 million domestic tourists and, for the first time, China’s international tourist travel figures have outnumbered the domestic numbers.

“There is huge opportunity for Wellington – if only we can capitalise on it via a runway that can handle long-haul flights.”