$1m from council for runway project

23:55, May 29 2013
Wellington Airport runway extension plan
HERE'S THE PLAN: The proposed runway extension would go north into Evans Bay.

Wellington Airport will start work on a resource consent application for a $300 million runway extension, after the city council approved a $1m helping hand.

The Wellington City Council voted 11-2 last night to put $1m towards the resource consent process.

"We can't be the coolest little capital if we're the best-kept secret in the world," Mayor Celia Wade- Brown said.

After the meeting, Wellington Airport announced it would begin work on the consent application.

"The runway extension is one of the most significant developments Wellington can do to boost its economy," chief executive Steve Sanderson said.

"We are thrilled with the council's decision to support the resource consent process." That process could take two years, with the airport and the council each committing $1m to it, he said.

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Work would include planning, landscaping and traffic design, noise assessments, and consultation. If approved, the extension could take five to seven years to complete.

Earlier this month, Wellington Airport announced a $16.2m net profit for the year to March 31.

Last night's meeting heard concerns about the process, especially from councillor Helene Ritchie. "We are locking out the public, and the eastern suburbs are going to be turned into a construction zone," she said.

But John Morrison and others backed the move to support the resource consent.

"We should have done it years ago - it's as simple as that - so let's get on with it," he said.

Justin Lester said that, in international terms, "Wellington does not exist".

The proposed 300-metre extension into Evans Bay would allow direct flights to and from Asia with new-generation aircraft such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A350.

The meeting cleared council chief executive Kevin Lavery to work with Wellington Airport to identify possible funding partners for the project.

A report said backing the application "may be perceived to be a conflict with the council's regulatory responsibilities". But it continued: "Such a perception would not be correct. As a natural user of natural and physical resources, there are established protocols in place to ensure council's multiple roles are clearly separated."

Economic analyst Berl has put the economic benefit at more than $43m a year, with more than 300 post-construction jobs created.

Earlier, the meeting heard from property developer Ian Cassels, who said: "This is about the biggest thing to ever happen to Wellington. We have been missing out on the world."

Samuel Marsden Collegiate School principal Jenny Williams said the extension would boost plans to attract more overseas pupils.

The Dominion Post