Airport to remove homes in noise zone
MICHAEL FORBES AND KATIE CHAPMAN
About 700 houses around Wellington Airport are to be demolished or insulated against airport noise.
Affected residents were notified yesterday of the airport's plans, which include removing up to 44 houses on its western boundary, where noise cannot be reduced to an acceptable level.
Chief operating officer John Howarth said the airport complied with noise limits set by Wellington City Council and the new measures were simply to allow for "sensible long-term planning" as the airport grew.
An independent body of airport stakeholders, local residents and the city council identified up to 700 homes where treatment might be required to mitigate future airport noise.
Over the next two years, those homes will be assessed, with work being carried out progressively over the next decade.
This will largely consist of installing window seals and ventilation systems so residents will not have to open their windows. In some cases, wall and ceiling insulation may also be installed.
The airport is allowed to emit up to 65 decibels, on average, over a 90-day period at its air noise boundary. It currently emitted an average of about 61 decibels, Mr Howarth said.
A 65dB sound is the level of normal conversation from a metre away. A rise of 10dB sounds twice as loud.
Mr Howarth said the study had identified 44 houses in Bridge St where noise could exceed 75dB on average, making effective mitigation impossible.
Those properties would be bought by the airport over time and their use changed to non-residential. The airport already owned half of the buildings and would remove three unoccupied houses next month.
"Tenants of airport-owned dwellings have been provided with six months' notice to give them the time they need to find new accommodation so removal work can start from November.
"Where the airport does not own dwellings and noise mitigation is not possible, it will extend an offer to purchase at fair valuation to the owners, should they wish to sell at any time, with a view to removing them in the future."
The total cost of the project was still a long way off from being determined, but Mr Howarth said it could be about $20 million.
Whether the project cost would be met solely by the airport or spread among its stakeholders – of which the city council is one – was also up for discussion.
Since April, the airport has been charging users 40 cents per passenger to go towards noise mitigation. This charge would be in place for about five years, Mr Howarth said.
Tommy's Real Estate agent Euon Murrell said the measures were unlikely to influence property values but they would make houses more saleable.
People who bought houses around airports generally expected some level of noise, so anything that helped reduce it would help sales, he said.
If negotiations with property owners fail, the airport has the same rights as a local authority to compulsorily acquire land under the Public Works Act.
Landowners can take the matter to the Environment Court.
The moves to buy the Bridge St properties come two years after the airport's master plan stated that properties on the east side of the street would be required in future for parking.
Coutts St and Calabar Rd have also been earmarked for possible acquisition to allow for further airport development.
Related story: Family matter to tenants ousted from airport
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