Airport Location Study

  • Project typeStudies of locations for potential new airport
Photo of aerial view of Whangarei airport runway.

At the Council meeting on 30 March 2022 Council decided to open consultation on three potential airport sites on 20 April 2022. 

The consultation is an opinion and information gathering exercise which will help Council decide which of four options to investigate further. 

Submissions close at 4:30pm on Wednesday 25 May 2022. 

Airport location study consultation

The new potential locations for an airport, if one is required, are:

  • Ruatangata West 
  • Ruatangata 
  • One Tree Point West

The work is being done to ensure our District is prepared when, or if in time to come, the airport at Onerahi is no longer able to meet Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) rules and requirements.  

No final site has been identified for a new airport. 

No decision has been made to close the Whangārei Airport at Onerahi.

No timelines have been set. 

Background

For several years now Council, along with a project advisory group of representatives of the Regional Council, Government entities, Northland Inc, Air New Zealand and others, along with a Mana Whenua Advisory group of representatives appointed by Te Huinga, have been considering the future for an airport in the District. 

No decisions have been made to close or move the Whangarei Airport in Onerahi, but numerous factors have made it sensible for us to explore future options in recent years.  

In 2014 it became clear that the site might not be suitable for future changes in aircraft types given Civil Aviation Authority requirements for safety areas at either end of the runway. 

The existing airport at Onerahi has the shortest commercial runway in New Zealand, and while it can operate with the current Q300 airplanes, these airplanes will be phased out in future. The current ATR72 aircraft cannot operate from Onerahi due to its short runway.

Civil Aviation Authority requirements may also change, causing problems for the Onerahi airport which has a short runway, no runway safety areas and a hill to the north of the airport.

Council investigated reclaiming land to extend the runways or shifting the airport across the harbour to the Port Nikau area. Many factors ruled out these options including hills jutting into flight paths, plus resource management consenting issues for land reclamation. 

In 2017, in consultation with the advisory groups, the net was cast wider and a “desktop analysis” was undertaken of sites that might be flat enough, large enough and have open approach paths. The list was whittled down to 28, and assessments narrowed that list down further to the three that will be consulted upon in April

Link to meeting agenda:

30 March Council Meeting Agenda

Extending the airport

Investigations into extending the airport included a 2014 study of whether Onerahi Airport could be extended or whether Port Nikau (across the harbour from Onerahi) would be a suitable alternative site. Neither met the requirements of a new airport site. 

Onerahi’s runway cannot be lengthened because of environmental impacts of the work and because hills would intersect with the flightpath when the runway is lengthened. The estimated cost of construction work is also a challenge.   

Port Nikau cannot be used because hills jut into the flight path, and land that was available is now being developed for other purposes.

Ruatangata site purchase

In late 2020 consultants had identified 28 potential sites. This list has now been whittled down to three preferred sites.

In 2020, we purchased properties at a Ruatangata site bounded by Three Mile Bush Road, Poroti and Kokopu Block.