Shifting Wellington Airport to a new location will be explored as part of a study into the possible $300 million extension of its runway.
Wellington International Airport chief executive Steve Sanderson emphasised that it had no plans to move, but that a report it had commissioned on the costs and benefits of the runway extension had to look at all possible alternatives.
"Part of any consent you take to a board of inquiry, you look at all the alternatives, including actually moving the airport."
If it were to move, the most likely site would be Kapiti Coast Airport at Paraparaumu, which served as the greater Wellington region's main airport until an improved Rongotai was reopened in 1959.
Sanderson said the Ernst & Young economic report, which is due in about six weeks, was commissioned to flesh out costings in an earlier Berl report on the runway extension, which the airport wants so it can attract direct long-haul flights, particularly from Asia.
"For example, it [the Berl report] says it will cost $300 million to build the extension, but it has a plus or minus of 25 per cent. We would like to get that a little bit more accurate."
He said a move was "obviously not feasible". It was vitally important for the city that the airport remain in its current location to capitalise on impressive growth figures, including an estimated 5.5 million passengers expected over the next 12 months.
Sir Noel Robinson, owner of Kapiti Coast Airport, also backed the main regional airport remaining in Rongotai. "Wellington is at about 1900 metres [runway length] now. They want to get the direct flights from Southeast Asia into Wellington . . . but to do that they need over 2000 metres.
"We are about 1200 metres." It would "absolutely decimate" the Kapiti Coast to increase the runway length and it would be impractical, Sir Noel said.
"For the overall economy of the region, extending Wellington's runway is a very good move, an expensive move, and we should be very supportive of it."
Wellington mayor-elect Celia Wade-Brown said during the recent election campaign that she supported the runway extension.
"This would give us a more international reputation rather than appearing less important than Auckland and Christchurch."
It would also encourage businesses to set up regional offices here, overseas students and academics to live here, and allow Wellington businesses to make face-to-face contacts, she said.
The proposed extension still faces several hurdles, including the resource consent process and a possible Environmental Protection Authority hearing.
Wellington City Council, which is a part-owner of the airport, committed $1m to the resource consent process in May this year, while the airport will pay another $1m for the application.
The consent would require planning, landscaping and traffic design, noise assessments and consultation, and due to its significance and potential impact on the coastal environment, the application would probably be heard by the Environmental Protection Authority.
Construction is estimated to take between five and seven years to complete.
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