Editorial: Gimme shelter

Last updated 13:42 20/07/2013

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OPINION: Far be it from us to complain about the planned new Invercargill airport.

How far exactly?

However far it ends up being between the new building and each waiting or newly landed aircraft - that's the distance we'll be complaining about.

There's much to commend the project for a new $13.3 million terminal building. But the blessed thing will be single-storey.

This means the end of the airbridge that at present allows people to enter and exit their flights without getting too terribly intrepid.

It mightn't be a long journey to or from the awaiting aircraft, but it's one that can be particularly challenging when the weather cuts up rough.

As has been known to happen.

From time to time.

It's true that Invercargill has been the only regional airport to have an airbridge, but it hasn't felt, at all, like an indulgence. Its owner, Air New Zealand, put it there for a reason.

Granted, the whole Southland experience cannot and should not be spent under cover during inclemencies.

And it's true that in the days before we had an airbridge at all, people got by. Stoic, pioneering types that they were.

But the airbridge has for decades been a welcome, and far- from-token gesture for arrivals and departees. One of those first impressions, and parting impressions, that we are so often reminded count for a lot.

Consider the howls of displeasure - albeit so often barely audible above the howling wind - after the airbridge was removed in late 2006 for what was lightly called refurbishment.

That process took a ridiculously long time and the bridge wasn't returned until March 2008, fully 18 months later.

In the meantime people had had quite enough of being soaked, storm-tossed and snap-frozen en route.

The refurbishment project has to happen, but the redesign should afford people as much cover as possible. Surely they can do better than this.

Otherwise, the design is . . . well it's certainly not remarkable but neither does it seem extravagant. Though a single storey, it affords an extra 300sqm and it is pleasing that the baggage reclaim area will now be fully indoors.

The Invercargill City Council's holding company, Holdco, will borrow the construction money and, at least if the airport company has its preference, rather than lending the money it will convert it to capital by issuing shares.

The new building is being built in the expectation that it will be suitable for the next 10 years, and able to be expanded.

That's sensible, although after so many years of frustrated civic ambition for the airport to receive international flights, the community's sense of optimism on that score is muted, indeed. If that's the sort of expansion the designers have in mind, then they have taken away an upper storey, and an airbridge, but retained a certain castle-in-the-air optimism.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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