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Study confirms airport has up to 15 years

Whangarei District Council has completed the first of a number of investigations into the future of air transport in the District.
Updated: 10/12/2014 11:22 a.m.

The Whangarei Airport Strategic Study confirms that cumulative issues associated with Civil Aviation rules, runway length, and significant costs for extending the existing runway, mean the current airport has a life-span of only 10-15 years. 

The report by Council’s consultant, Beca, also rules out the use of reclaimed land at Port Nikau as an alternative airport location, and recommends that Council identifies and investigates potential fresh sites for a new airport.

On Wednesday 17 December Council will consider whether or not to submit the project as one of the many to be considered for inclusion in the District’s Draft 2015-2015 Long Term Plan which will open for consultation in autumn.

Stage One of the study was initiated by Council in February, after discussions with Far North Holdings and Northland Inc, Air New Zealand and the Civil Aviation Authority about the future of air transport in Northland.

“A major change is not imminent, but the current airport’s future is limited. To make the best decisions for the long term we need to start a rigorous programme of investigation and planning now,” said Group Manager Infrastructure Services Simon Weston.

“It is difficult to provide a cost for the project given that we do not have a location in mind, but a new airport is likely to be in the region of $40m. Stage Two of the project will provide costs and commercial information for Council to consider in detail.”

Mr Weston said following the evaluation of sites in Stage Two of the project, Stage Three would provide an in-depth investigation of one or two sites, Stage Four would involve obtaining the land and consents required, and Stage Five would include preparatory work on the ground (enabling works).

The Stage One study showed that extending the runway would be prohibitively expensive (around $140 million), and would breach many planning controls.

The report said the hills surrounding Port Nikau made it unsuitable for use as an airport, and it would cost about $148 Million to establish an airfield there.

“It’s not completely out of the picture, but it doesn’t look like a good option at this stage,” said Mr Weston.  “We could come back to it if nothing better is found.”

“This is a very significant project so it will involve a public consultation process, even though that is some way off. If a new airport was to go ahead, we would potentially plan for this around the end of the decade or in the 2020s."

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