Private survey reveal's lack of interest in 'lavish' new airport
Wondering if he was the only ratepayer who wasn't keen on spending more than $20 million on a new airport, an outspoken council critic conducted a rather elaborate survey on social media.
Peter Barker had 487 responses, 70 per cent of whom were against the New Plymouth District Council spending between $21 million and $29 million on a new airport terminal.
The new terminal would be 4092 square metres, quite a bit larger than the 1,430 sqm of the current building. The increased size would allow for a larger airline lounge, additional hospitality, including conference rooms, retail and advertising spaces.
Councillor Richard Handley said the audit and risk committee, that he chairs, believed the business case fairly reflected the business and mitigated the obvious risk.
"We did not say it was risk free. We now await the outcome of the airport board's discussion and decision about whether in their view it is fully fit for purpose. That's the next and final test and the council awaits that."
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The council asked for submissions on the proposal and received 127 in favour and 88 against.
Barker, who lives in Bell Block, went to the June council meeting and listened to the debate on the new terminal, he said.
"I couldn't believe the submissions given to council (against the proposal) just went totally by the board. They weren't listening at all. They had already made their decision."
He thinks the terminal definitely needs upgrading - more parking is needed and the baggage area is "awful" - but the $9 million proposal put forward a couple of years ago would have been adequate, he said.
"It just came as a shock all of a sudden we need to spend $29 million on it."
When he put up the survey, which can be found on Neighbourly.co.nz under airport survey results, he told people he didn't know whether he was right or wrong about the community not wanting a lavish airport, Barker said.
"The survey was not perfect, but I am certain it is a better gauge of how the community feels than the views of 15 isolated councillors, not many of whom, I suspect, asked many of us how we felt, but preferred to take the dubious advice and direction from self-interested bureaucrats."
He also did a lot of "foot slogging" around Bell Block, Fitzroy and the CBD, he said.
"Most people didn't know what was going on with the airport."
The survey asked, among other things, what were the things people liked about the current airport - free parking, fast check-in and the cafe were the top three, while more parking, baggage handling, and more displays relevant to Taranaki were the top answers to what improvements should be made to the current airport.
Shops and conference facilities were planned for the new terminal, but out of 477 people, 351 or 73.58 per cent said conference facilities were of no interest to them and 332, or 63.45 per cent, weren't interested in having more shops.
And 329 of those surveyed opted for a smaller airport, while 100 people liked the proposed enlargement, and 56 wanted something different altogether.
Barker said many people told him they didn't see any point going to the council because their voices wouldn't be heard and they couldn't make a difference.
"I think that is a shocking position to be in for people to feel so disenfranchised and so alienated from the process they think what the hell is the point in bothering? We have to make a point in bothering or we give up and let them ride roughshod over us."