Runway extension gets 10-Year Plan backing

28 May 2015

Further work on the proposal to extend Wellington Airport’s runway has been given the go-ahead by Wellington City Councillors deliberating on the Council’s 10-Year Plan.

A majority of Councillors approved the proposal to commit $90 million of funding to the runway extension which, if built, would enable long-haul international flights to access Wellington.

Wellington’s Deputy Mayor, Justin Lester, who chairs the Governance, Finance and Planning Committee that is considering the 10-Year Plan, says today’s decision is a vote of confidence in the runway proposal – but it stresses that the business case for the runway must still “stack up”.

“Council will want to see that the business case is compelling, the resource consent has been approved and we have a satisfactory airline commitment. We will not be spending ratepayer dollars on an extension until these issues have been resolved.

“Council’s support today is a potent symbol that we are serious about investigating this opportunity.

“We have the support of the entire Wellington region and strong indications of support from the North Island and upper South Island councils. Middle New Zealand recognises the significant potential benefits to their economies and would like to see direct international flights into the city.”

Cr Jo Coughlan, Chair of the Council’s Economic Growth Committee, told the meeting that a recent Nielsen survey of Wellington businesses shows there is strong support for the City Council’s ‘Invest to Grow’ strategy – particularly the proposal for an extension of the runway.

Cr Coughlan says leaving the funding for the runway extension in the budget is essential to demonstrate our commitment to the project at this stage.

“There is a lot of water to go under the bridge however as the biggest stakeholder we need to show some strong leadership in this space. Strengthening long haul connections is essential to the growth of the regional economy.”

She adds the Nielsen survey shows that access to international markets is a substantial concern of local businesses.

“There are some big challenges for us in terms of progress toward the extension – not the least the funding – but I’m glad that the majority of my colleagues have backed further work on the runway proposal to keep this project alive.

“Businesses have strongly told us that they are anxious that the growth of the local economy is being held back – they want the Council to show the courage to invest in the airport and in the other major projects that are central to the ‘Invest to Grow’ programme.”