Flourishing airport challenged to think carbon neutral

A Freightways Boeing 737 freighter service plane is welcomed to Palmerston North Airport.
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A Freightways Boeing 737 freighter service plane is welcomed to Palmerston North Airport.

Additional parking spaces, a valet service and a much larger regional lounge are in the works for Palmerston North Airport as business booms.

With an expectation of more than 621,000 people through the terminal for the year to the end of June, the airport company is also starting to pay significant dividends to city council ratepayers.

It will soon open a regional lounge three times bigger than the current one, install more parking space, and introduce a valet parking service.

Passenger numbers, income and dividends are forecast to continue growing in its plans for the next three years.

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And now, its city council owner wants it to start thinking about going carbon neutral.

Recently-elected Green Party-endorsed councillor Brent Barrett proposed the challenge at Monday's finance and performance committee meeting.

He said he appreciated the quality of the work the airport was doing and its ambitious plans for the future, and he wanted it to scope out the feasibility and value of working toward carbon neutral certification.

"It fits well with the aspiration to be New Zealand's leading regional airport.

"The airport is in a very positive space financially, and this would be a chance to join a cohort, internationally, of very forward-looking airports."

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Mayor Grant Smith said the airport company would need time to consider the carbon neutral challenge, but he supported the principle.

Councillors have asked the airport board to carry out the study in the 2018-19 year.

Council chief executive Paddy Clifford said the transformation of Palmerston North Airport so far was a remarkable achievement that was good for the city and region.

One of the tangible benefits for the city council was an increased dividend. This year it received $322,000, when it was banking on $200,000.

That was forecast to grow to more than $1 million in three years' time.

Cr Jim Jefferies said although the council's ownership of the airport was more strategic than about making money, it was good to be getting a return.

The company's six-monthly report and draft statement of intent for next year were introduced to councillors by the airport company's new board chairman, former MidCentral District Health Board chief executive Murray Georgel.

He and councillors paid tribute to the work of former chairman Derek Walker, who has stood down after 16 years on the board, the last 14 of those as chairman.

Georgel said Walker and his team had left the airport in very good stead.

He said an increase in landing charges negotiated under Walker's watch was the key factor that would boost the airport's revenue in future, by 20 per cent next year.

That would help pay for plans to continue improving the terminal and parking facilities.

A new regional lounge was expected to open in May, in the former upstairs international area.

Chief executive David Lanham said having that extra space available would delay having to consider when the growth in business was likely to test the capacity of the current terminal building.

He said having its own airport zone and rules confirmed in the city's District Plan cleared the way for development of land along Airport Drive.

The first stage of that was expected to be a $5m building for the Massey School of Aviation, followed by an accommodation building for aviation students and other visitors.

 - Stuff

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