Airport to have $11m upgrades

TARYN UTIGER
Last updated 05:00 26/06/2014
New Plymouth airport.
A plane at New Plymouth airport.

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Taranaki's airport has become a victim of its own success and is losing money as a result.

With the airport's ever-increasing passenger numbers, New Plymouth District Council is struggling to keep up with the demand and the expansions needed to accommodate the growth.

With required upgrades on the horizon, the airport is set to lose $108,100 this coming year, putting the books into the red.

Council manager of infrastructure Jim Willson said the $108,100 operating deficit would only be for one year and imminent parking and landing fee increases would put the airport's books back in black from the next financial year.

However, there were $11 million worth of upgrades scheduled for the airport in the next three years, New Plymouth District Council's manager of property assets, Peter Handcock, said.

The goal was for the airport to create enough cash to break even and fund future developments but at the moment that was not possible, he said.

"This is very reliant on the ability to set realistic fees and charges that will not only meet existing costs but also cover longer term refurbishment and development."

Airport New Zealand reported a 7.7 per cent increase in capacity on flights in and out of New Plymouth during the past 12 months, while the total number of airport passengers last year was a record 332,178 people.

In a report to the council, Handcock said that with the cost of the airport terminal upgrade, which begins next year, along with the need for more car parks, an extended aircraft parking area and upgrades to the sewerage and water systems, $11m needed to be spent in the next three years.

During the next two years the airport should be able to self-fund existing loan repayments and minor renewal work, but it would not be able to fund any significant work.

The ownership and operation of the airport is a 50:50 joint venture between the Crown and the council.

Handcock said it was likely the money would need to be made available from either party.

Failing that the funds would need to be borrowed.

Council chief executive Barbara McKerrow said the council was looking to work with the Crown to clarify its stake in the venture.

After the election the Crown would either continue to be a partner in the airport, or would not, she said. "None of that is clear yet, so the status quo will continue for the time being."

If the Crown did decide to sell its stake in the airport, it would have to have a discussion with Taranaki iwi Te Atiawa, as the Ministry of Transport signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the iwi in April.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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