Wellington Airport says the planned 300-metre extension of its runway is virtually assured of going south into Lyall Bay.
A runway "pier" using stainless steel covered piles, titanium plates, and a dehumidification system to prevent condensation, has been used in Tokyo in Japan and is under consideration for Wellington.
Special effects whiz Sir Richard Taylor believes a runway extension would boost Wellington's movie industry.
Airport chief executive Steve Sanderson said the first phase of the engineering assessment had shown that a southern extension was the most likely option should the project receive resource consent, and funding for the $300 million project is found.
"The works required for a northern [Evans Bay] extension have been found to be more extensive as there is around 40 metres of silt below the sea bed."
Extending the runway to the north would mean the silt would have to be removed or stabilised, adding cost to the project.
Sanderson said the second phase of engineering studies would begin next month and be completed in October to "confirm the geotechnical environment to the south, enabling the completion of a base design against which detailed environmental assessments can be undertaken".
The airport would release independent studies in September on the economic benefit to the Wellington region and to New Zealand, along with the viable routes based on current market demand.
Options on how the runway would be extended are also being worked on.
However, it is understood that Mitsubishi Corporation NZ is keen on duplicating, at least in part, the extension of the Tokyo Haneda Airport's runway D.
The Haneda extension was billed as the world's first hybrid structure using a combination of landfill and a pier made with structural steel tubes covered in salt-resistant stainless steel jackets. Titanium cover plates were used on the bottom and sides of the runway pier, with a dehumidification system to prevent condensation and add to the pier's lifespan - which is about 100 years.
Infratil owns 66 per cent of Wellington Airport. Wellington City Council owns the rest.
Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said she and an officer from Wellington Airport had met with Mitsubishi in Tokyo to look at the "innovative new system".
She described it as "a pile system with stainless steel collars . . . so it allows the water to flow".
Sanderson said there was a groundswell of support throughout the region, with surveys showing that 85 per cent of Wellingtonians were in favour of a runway extension to enable direct long-haul flights into and out of the capital.
Taylor, Weta Workshop's multiple Oscar-winning boss, was a supporter.
"Direct connections to Asia will undoubtedly facilitate greater business relationships for our creative industries as well as being a huge advantage for our city."
Victoria University vice-chancellor Professor Grant Guilford also backed a runway extension.
"If Wellington were a direct flight destination, it would be considerably more attractive to international students.
"Wellington is a great place to live and study and any move which makes the city more accessible to international students is certainly worth exploring."
September 2014: Release economic benefit and market demand
October 2014: Finalise engineering assessment
November 2014: Finalise consent reports, including environmental, urban and cultural assessments.
November 2014: Public consultation
February 2015: Lodge consent application
November 2015: Possible consent decision
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