Wellington Airport 'gifts' $10,000 to home owners affected by runway extension
It's the compensation deal those living near Wellington Airport's proposed runway extension are saying is too good to be true.
Wellington Airport has offered to buy 21 seaside properties along Moa Point Rd if its planned 300-metre runway extension ends up blocking their ocean views.
This is despite the properties not standing in the project's way.
Owners will also receive a $10,000 sweetener from the partially ratepayer-owned airport, which they can keep even if the project falls over.
The airport says it is trying to be a good neighbour. But some Moa Point Rd residents say they will not be getting carried away until they read the fine print.
The deal involves property owners signing an agreement that requires Wellington Airport to buy their property at fair value if the $300 million runway extension gets resource consent and funding is secured.
Within five days of signing, property owners receive a $10,000 solatium payment, which compensates landowners for disruption and inconvenience.
If the runway extension ends up going nowhere, the owner can keep the $10,000. If the project gets the green light but the owner decides they do not want to sell after all, they can still keep the $10,000.
Those who accept the deal can even sell their house to someone else in the meantime and keep the solatium payment, although the new homeowner will not be able to claim an additional $10,000.
There are only 19 houses along Moa Point Rd, meaning two empty section owners will be able to claim the deal.
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Moa Point Rd resident Marlene Mulholland said that while a $10,000 payment sounded nice, it was pretty small compared to the million-dollar view they would be giving up if they moved.
"Nowhere else in Wellington has got the views we've got. Where would we go?"
Her husband, Tom Mulholland said he personally did not think there was anything suspicious about the offer, but his neighbours were worried they might have to sign away their ability to oppose the project down the line.
At least half a dozen Moa Point Rd residents were considering legal action if the runway extension's resource consent made it to a board of inquiry, he said.
"There's quite a lot of people in this street who don't want to move, and there's about two or three who definitely won't."
Another Moa Point Rd resident, who did not wish to be named, said he was also suspicious there may be a clause in the agreement that had a bit of "bite" to it.
"If something is too good to be true, then it's probably too good to be true."
Runway Extension project manager Mike Brown said Moa Pt residents would still be able to oppose the runway extension even if they signed the agreement.
"The Moa Pt residents' views are important to us and we want to be a good neighbour."
Property lawyer John Greenwood said solatium payments were common under the Public Works Act to help people through stressful periods and cover lawyers fees.
But it was rare to see an organisation offering to buy properties that were not actually lying in the path of a major infrastructure project.
It was quite likely this was the airport's way of getting as much of the public on side as possible before the project reached the resource consent stage, he said.
"It's a bit of a PR exercise really."
* Moa Point Rd residents sign an agreement that obligates Wellington Airport to make a fair value offer on their property if the runway extension goes ahead.
* Signing the agreement comes with a complimentary $10,000 payment. Property owners can still sell independently in the meantime but the new owners will not receive $10,000.
* If the runway extension is approved and funding is secured within 12 months then the airport will pay for two valuers - one chosen by the owner and one by the airport. The airport then pays the mid-point between their valuations.
* Property owners can keep their $10,000 even if the runway extension does not proceed or they decide not to sell. Those who stay will receive noise insulation, such as double-glazing on their windows.