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 Whangārei 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 were consulted on in 2022.