Airport upgrade to go under microscope at council meeting
Plans to upgrade New Plymouth's airport at a cost of more than $21 million will be dissected at a public hearing on Wednesday.
While the plan, to turn the airport terminal into an iconic design at a cost of between $21.7m to $28.7m, has seemingly enjoyed widespread support in the community there is an undercurrent of others who think the proposal is flawed.
Of the 226 submissions the council received on the proposal the majority were in support of the plan.
Second on the list to speak to the councillors, who are hearing submissions on the 2017 draft annual plan, is former councillor Len Houwers who has damned the proposal as unsubstantiated.
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He said the proposal lacked evidence there was a need for the proposed design and a scrapped option from the four originally put forward would have sufficed - with a price tag of only about $9m.
He said the need for an airport expansion to a floor area beyond the 2,200 square metres proposed in the cheaper option had not been proven.
"Airports are built to handle peak demand, not total demand," he said.
He said the business case was meant to be the argument for the bigger airport but it provided no evidence of peak demand exceeding peak capacity, now or in the future.
Instead, he said, councillors had heard about how passenger numbers had increased from about 50,000 in 1965 to about 420,000 nowadays and were expected to rise to 640,000.
"Clearly it must be too small - this is the path the councillors have been led down."
He said the airport manager was driving the business case for the larger terminal based on accommodating Jetstar.
"A carrier rated as the the worst airline in the world, who have already dropped seven flights per week from one route that they service in New Plymouth."
Houwers said there was no dispute the airport needed money spent on it, he just didn't believe it required upwards of $21m.
"That takes $16m from the community," he said.
Last September the NPDC rubber-stamped $19.3m for a new terminal but a fresh design, proposing a bigger space, was later recommended.
The multi-million dollar plan, all of which would be funded through airport revenue rather than rates, would see the airport's size increase from 1,430 sqm to 4,092 sqm and would boast a cultural narrative.
Another topic scheduled to go under the microscope at the extraordinary meeting was water sustainability.
Currently residential customers pay for their water service either through their rates or by water meter.
The council is looking to bring these two payment systems onto a level playing field, and are reviewing the water fees and charges.
If the proposed changes to the water rate are approved, residential households that use less than the district average of 226m3 of water per year would pay less through voluntarily switching to a water meter.
Also included in the draft annual plan - just to name a few - was a forecasted rates increase of 4.5 per cent, a reboot of the central business district at a cost of $340,000 and a zero-waste initiative.
The council will meet on June 27 to approve the annual plan for the 2017/18 year.