New Plymouth Airport upgrade given the go ahead

Drawings of the "new iconic build" for the New Plymouth Airport expansion.
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Drawings of the "new iconic build" for the New Plymouth Airport expansion.

Plans to upgrade the New Plymouth Airport terminal will go ahead despite submitters telling councillors spending more than $21 million on it was a waste of money.

Fifteen submitters and their supporters braved the freezing cold council chambers on Wednesday to tell New Plymouth District Council what they thought of the proposed upgrade, which is expected to cost between $21.7 million and $28.7m. They also gave their views on the proposal to charge low water users less if they volunteer to get a water meter installed.  

Most of the submitters were unhappy with the cost of the airport, saying people just went there to get on a plane and the terminal didn't need all the extra bells and whistles.

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Former councillor Len Houwers said it "wasted $16million of other people's money for no quantifiable benefit".

Climate Justice Taranaki said there were more urgent infrastructure projects that could be considered instead, such as a more modern and effective wastewater treatment plant, developing an electric fleet of council vehicles and public transport or investing in sustainable energy systems. 

Pilot James Finlayson said he objected to the council spending so much money on a building.

"It's a crazy idea -  $28million. I haven't found a single person who supports this. An airport isn't a destination. You don't attract people because of an airport. It doesn't matter if it's busy at peak times, it's an airport. Spend some time at Heathrow." 

The money would be better spent on the runway, or investing in a state of the art navigation system so the airport didn't close because of low cloud so often, he said.

Peter Moeahu and his son Dinnie Moeahu both spoke in support of the new terminal.

"I gladly accept the proposal to fully fund the airport and spare no expense," Dinnie told councillors. "This is important to us and will enhance the mana of the region."

Peter said he was an elected representative of Puketapu hapu. The hapu had been involved in developing the cultural narrative displayed in the terminal.

"We have been privileged to be engaged with the council on this project. We have felt involved and thank you for that involvement."

Three councillors, Gordon Brown, Murray Chong and John McLeod, opposed the airport upgrade. Brown said people checked in online, took their kindle, so didn't need a bookshop and had a carry on bag so didn't need to check in luggage.

"That trend will only accelerate. We need to do something with the airport, but $21 to $28million, give me a break. This is over the top and needs to be scaled back."

But the majority of councillors disagreed, saying they needed to do it once and do it right.

Mayor Neil Holdom said they were creating a council controlled organisation and independent board.

"And they will come back to us and recommend the final design that will be fit for purpose." 

The council also decided to fund water meters for low water users. 

Retired plumber Tony Collins said he upset his neighbours by pointing out they were wasting water while watering their driveway, but they just said it was their day, he said.   

"We need to educate people on the cost." He had seen a lot of leaks and wasting water during his 50 years in the trade, he said. 

One couple bought a house with an old tub that leaked. They wrapped a towel around it until two years later the towel disintegrated. For two years water dripped onto the towel."

Climate Justice Taranaki Spokeswoman Catherine Cheung said it appeared the council did not care who took the water, or for what use, as long as they paid. 

"We do not believe that it is fair or that there is a level playing field if families and low-income earners are are charged exactly the same water rate as commercial/industrial users."

Councillor Marie Pearce said a lot of people on fixed incomes were either single or a couple and they were paying the same as a family of about six. The optional water meters will make things fairer, she said.

 - Stuff

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