Changes in the air transport sector have driven Whangarei District Council to undertake a study of options for Whangarei.
16/06/2014 11:47 a.m.
Council has decided to begin the earliest stages of a study into the future of the Whangarei Airport, the prospects of and problems with it remaining at Onerahi, and the possibility of relocating it to another site in the District.
This study follows on-going discussions with Far North Holdings and Northland Inc about the future of air transport in Northland. Far North Holdings have already undertaken a review of their airport infrastructure and short, medium and long term options.
“The study will take some time and will be done in several phases, and if any major changes are recommended there will be further studies and consultation with hapu and the public, so changes are not imminent,” said WDC Group Manager Infrastructure and Services Simon Weston.
“We will be calling for tenders from suitably qualified people to do the first phases of this study. They will report back to Council on problems and possibilities for Onerahi. At that point a decision will be made on whether to look for another location. That will require more investigation and reporting back. Any decisions after that point would involve a public consultation process. If a new airport was to go ahead, we would potentially plan for this around the end of the decade or in the 2020s."
Mr Weston said a number of changes affecting aviation in the past few years had a cummulative impact on the airport at Onerahi. “This sequence of events has brought us to the point of having a solid discussion about where to from here."
He explained the physical limitations of the current airport site. “The Airport has two runways, a short grass runway that is used mainly for private and small commercial operations and a sealed runway that is used by private and commercial operators including the Air New Zealand Link service (ANZL).
“Our sealed runway is the shortest commercial runway in New Zealand. It was recently decided that it was too short (under Civil Aviation Authority provisions) for the ANZL Beech 1900 aircraft to safely land and take off in all conditions. “Air New Zealand accommodated this restriction by bringing in larger Q300 aeroplanes which, because of their design, can use the shorter runway in a wider range of conditions,” Mr Weston said.
“Because these planes are bigger, they carry more people, meaning the terminal is much busier at arrival and departure times. That in turn raises questions about the terminal size, whether it is big enough or should be expanded.”
Mr Weston also said the airport’s location in the middle of a residential area caused some issued regarding noise and bird control. “These are all issues that could have a significant impact on the medium to long term future. The plan now is to complete a review that will evaluate all the issues raised, and options for resolving them. A desktop exercise can also be undertaken investigating options for future airport locations, building on the work undertaken by Beca in the 1999 Whangarei Airport Master Plan.”
Mr Weston said one option to be investigated could be for Council to build a new airport. “Again, we are not talking about any sudden decisions or changes, but we are talking about planning ahead, looking at all the problems and potential solutions, and discussing the issue with everyone involved.”
The investigation will be undertaken in stages:
- Review the issues associated with the Whangarei Airport. This will include issues associated with CAA; Airport ownership; District Plan; Noise; ANZL and others.
- Provide workable solutions to the issues raised including cost and risk. At this point report back to Council before further work is undertaken.
- Consider alternative locations for the Whangarei airport. This will be a desktop exercise with indicative costings for up to 6 locations.
- Analysing the options from all angles.
Taking up to two preferred options forward for further analysis and report back to Council.
What to expect next:
- Senior Council staff and Councillors will be talking to the wide range of people who are involved in the airport from an aviation, tourism, business, community and hapu perspective.
- Companies with suitable experience will be asked to tender to do the study.
- The Tender for the study will be awarded.
- The study will begin and may take several months.
- There will be a report back to Council.
- Council will decide where to from here. This may involve consultation with the public through the Long Term Plan process.