Wellington Airport puts resource consent plans for runway extension on hold

An artist impression of what an extended Wellington Airport runway would look like.
SUPPLIED

An artist impression of what an extended Wellington Airport runway would look like.

Controversial plans to extend Wellington Airport's runway have been put on hold.

Greater Wellington Regional Council and Wellington City Council both received a request from Wellington International Airport on Friday to pause the processing of consent applications for its $300 million runway extension.

The airport is seeking permission to add an extra 355 metres to its runway by reclaiming land in Lyall Bay.

An aerial map of Wellington Airport with the runway extension to the south.
SUPPLIED

An aerial map of Wellington Airport with the runway extension to the south.

Doing so would allow for direct long-haul flights between Wellington and Asia.

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The project attracted 776 public submissions, with 525 of them against the proposal.

Airport spokesman Greg Thomas said management wanted to take a few weeks to review the feedback and check everything was in order with the application before proceeding.

"Because of the number of submissions, we want to make sure we've taken the time to review all those. To make sure all due diligence is done before we finalise the application."

This was one of the last steps before the application reached the Environment Court, Thomas said.

Richard Randerson, spokesman for anti-extension group Guardians of the Bays, said it was encouraging to see doubt creeping into the minds of airport management as the weight of the submissions fell heavily against its application.

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"At the end of the day, that's indicating something quite serious," Randerson said.

"There's a significant number of questions raised about the process that haven't been properly addressed by the airport."

Randerson said submitters had exposed holes in the argument for the application, including significant doubts over the business benefits, and now management would look for a way to "plug some of those holes".

He believed profit figures were based on "inflated" passenger numbers, some of which were projected all the way up to 2060.

"As a result of the increased public scrutiny we have seen a majority of [Wellington] mayoral candidates back-pedal on their outright support for the extension," he said.

"That is because the public have serious doubts about this white elephant and mayoral candidates are feeling the pressure."

Wellington mayoral candidate Helene Ritchie, whose central platform for the mayoralty has been opposition to the runway from the outset, described the money required as unjustifiable "corporate welfare".

"The fight will go on until the application is either completely withdrawn from the Environment Court or thrown out."

Wellington City Council eastern ward councillor Sarah Free said it was "marvellous news" that the plan was paused.

"They're realising it's not very popular. There's quite a lot of resistance building up."

She pointed to environmental disruption, costs to ratepayers, and uncertainties over Government funding as problems with the project.

 - Stuff

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