Ohakea upgrade complete
Ohakea Air Force Base's new $12.6 million Air Movements Terminal is open for business.
The Air Movements Terminal brings an end to Project Takitini, which has seen $130m pumped into upgrading and modernising the base at Ohakea over the past four years.
The new, 538-square-metre building, on the site previously taken up by the No 5 squadron hangar, has taken 13 months to build and includes a check-in area, baggage carousels, processing areas and conference facilities.
It was opened yesterday by Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant General Tim Keating, Chief of Air Force Air Vice-Marshal Mike Yardley, and Minister of Defence Dr Jonathan Coleman.
Coleman said Ohakea was the "logical" hub for the New Zealand Defence Force, given its central location.
"What it shows is that Manawatu is going to be very, very important for the future of New Zealand Defence.
"This will be where our major deployments move out from."
In addition to becoming a hub for the forces, allowing them to assemble and deploy on major activities more easily, the terminal can also be used as a reserve international airport for civilian aircraft, given that it has the third-longest runway in the country.
It has the capacity to process up to 250 domestic and international passengers at once, and has been purpose-built to meet Customs, Ministry for Primary Industries, and Immigration standards.
Yardley said defence was about security, and the Defence Force did have responsibility if there was a disaster in Wellington, where Defence headquarters was situated.
"If you look and say, the roads into Wellington are likely to be blocked, so how are we going to get support services and rescue services into there? It's going to be by helicopters."
One part of the building was equipped with wiring so it could be set up as an "operations room" for other agencies, to link into a network that had already been set up in the event of a natural disaster.
Ohakea was already the alternate runway when flights were unable to land in Auckland, and the new facility would make them more available in such events.
"In the past we have had three to four international aircraft sitting out here when Auckland's been shut down."
The area outside had also be upgraded with "hard standing" to accommodate larger aircraft.
The new facility would be manned by 18 staff, but other personnel could help if needed, he said.
The first flight will leave from the new facility on Monday, headed for Hawaii for personnel to take part in the Rim of the Pacific Exercise, (RIMPAC) an international maritime warfare exercise hosted by the United States Navy's Pacific Fleet.