Airport still hopes for trans-Tasman
Hamilton Airport chairman John Birch says the decision to drop the position of chief executive does not mean it has given up hope of attracting a trans-Tasman airline to replace Virgin Australia, which is pulling out this month.
"Nothing could be further from the truth....I don't give up on things," Birch said.
The airport company, 50 per cent owned by Hamilton City Council and the balance by other Waikato local authorities, yesterday announced chief executive Chris Doak was leaving in January and that his role would not be retained.
Birch said the fact is that Doak and his team and the board have completed a raft of major projects and the "strategic" position of a chief executive is not needed for day to day work and any projects ahead.
The loss of Virgin Australia, which has attributed its departure to lack of patronage, "crystallised" a decision already made in full consultation with Doak, who had been seven years in the job and had been considering future career challenges.
Still on the airport company's agenda, but not requiring a chief executive's skills, was promoting Hamilton Airport to the Government as the official alternate to Auckland Airport in the event of a natural disaster that closed air access to Auckland.
Birch earlier this year floated the idea that the Government pay the cost of extending Hamilton's runway to take the large wide-bodied jets that fly in and out of Auckland, and that the airport company pays it back over an agreed time.
He has promoted the idea as a national transport strategic policy issue.
Hamilton Airport has asked an Auckland company to do an economic assessment and cost analysis of the proposal, which it will then present to the Government.
The matter would then be out of the airport company's hands, he said.
Birch expects the consultants' to conclude that Hamilton is the most viable alternate facility to Auckland.
"The cost (to the Government) of extending the runway is very close to being immaterial. The question is what is the real cost to the economy of Auckland airport being closed for three days or three weeks."
Birch, an engineer, believes Auckland airport is vulnerable in the event of a tsunami or runway crash.