Mayor seeks action over runway plan

02:32, Mar 07 2013

Upper Hutt's mayor has called for less talk and more action on long-discussed plans for an extension to the Wellington Airport runway.

Airport spokesman Greg Thomas yesterday confirmed it was considering a 300-metre extension north into Evans Bay at a projected cost of $300 million - or $1m a metre.

The extension, to take the runway from 2000 metres to 2300m, would allow long-haul flights to and from Asia with new-generation aircraft such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A350.

"A direct long-haul service is arguably the most significant thing the Wellington region can do to realise its economic potential," Mr Thomas said.

"To put this figure in context, the new Christchurch terminal was over $200 million, a new wide-body aircraft is over $320 million, or the [Westpac] Stadium in today's terms would be up to $300 million."

Upper Hutt Mayor Wayne Guppy attended a recent airport briefing and said the subject of a runway extension had been coming up for several years.

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"To me, it makes sense. But either we do it once and for all, or we put it to bed."

The Wellington region was severely disadvantaged by not having a truly international airport, and direct flights to Asia and on to the rest of the world, he said.

"The regional economic benefit for long-haul flights to Asia with connections to Europe is very clear for everyone to see."

The $300m cost was achievable. "If the private sector contributed and the public sector serviced a loan, we are only looking at approximately $10 million per year to service roughly a $200 million loan.

"I say it is time now not to continue talking, but let's make this happen for the future of the Wellington region."

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said that she supported efforts to lure long-haul flights from Asia.

"Extending the runway north over the state highway at Evans Bay is a medium to long-term project, and would remove some impediments for long-haul aircraft to operate out of Wellington."

The airport's 2030 masterplan outlines a 100m extension north, and a 500m extension south.

RULES A COSTLY CHAOS

Taxi drivers are complaining of chaos as Wellington Airport introduces new arrangements for access to its pickup area.

The airport wants to ensure a smooth flow of taxis to the arrivals terminal, and has created a new holding pen at the southern end of the building, where taxis must wait before moving to the terminal taxi stands.

But drivers have complained that the first two days of the new system have resulted in chaos. One irate cabbie said he had waited for 90 minutes to get near a fare.

"At this time of day, we used to get through in 20 to 30 minutes under the old system," he said yesterday morning.

Combined Taxis fleet manager Steve Rolleston wrote to drivers on Tuesday, advising them that the airport company would issue infringement notices if they queued in the area between the holding pen and the designated airport cab stands.

Combined Taxi drivers at the airport were also unhappy with the written advice they had received from Mr Rolleston suggesting they keep space between cars to a minimum so as many cars as possible could be kept in the pen lanes. Drivers say the lanes are not wide enough for them to open their doors.

An airport spokeswoman said the current delays for drivers were no different from normal peak-hour holdups. She said the company was working closely with management teams from all major taxi companies.

"The airport is taking on board the feedback and incorporating further improvements as the works continue. The new taxi area will also include a new and refurbished cafe, with amenities specifically for taxi drivers."

Contact Paul Easton
Hutt Valley reporter
Email: paul.easton@dompost.co.nz
Twitter: @pwe74

The Dominion Post