Second Auckland airport at Whenuapai 'unacceptable', former North Shore mayor says
Turning Whenuapai military base into a commercial airport is an "unacceptable proposition" for most residents, a former North Shore City mayor says.
Andrew Williams, who served as mayor between 2007 and 2010, said the ramped-up noise and fuel pollution of increased flights could mean "significant adverse environmental effects" for their neighbourhoods.
On Thursday, Air New Zealand said it could be commercially viable to operate Whenuapai as a second commercial airport in Auckland – initially running services to Wellington and Christchurch.
The airline's chief executive, Christopher Luxon, said it was a tempting prospect due to "suboptimal" infrastructure to and from the existing Auckland airport.
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But Williams said the idea had been discussed extensively 10 years ago, and was ruled out.
"Potentially there could have been constant flights from dawn till midnight, seven days a week ... The impact on North Shore's beautiful environment would have been immense".
He also worried about noise from plane engines disrupting school students.
Noise levels were "manageable" with the current air force operations from Whenuapai, Williams said.
A 26-year-old woman working and living beside the airfield said she wasn't opposed to commercial flights at Whenuapai. But she said her view was "vehemently unpopular" with other residents.
"It always has been an air base, people who move here know that. They're a bit naive if they can't handle a bit of plane noise," she said.
The woman said it was frustrating driving up to an hour south to reach Auckland Airport when "we're living right on the doormat of an operational airport already".
Christine Yang, who runs a bed and breakfast in nearby West Harbour, said she didn't think Air New Zealand's proposal was right for the area.
"In the last three to four years there's been a lot of housing development in around the Whenuapai base – I don't think they'd like the extra noise," she said.
Yang said the Waterview Tunnel, which linked the Northwestern and Southwestern motorways in 2017, made getting to Auckland Airport more convenient for north-westerners.
Air New Zealand is still in process of assessing the merits of a second airport at Whenuapai, said Luxon.
Once it had, it would engage with the airfield's owner – the Government.
"Whenuapai is a key infrastructure asset for New Zealand yet it could be utilised much more if the Government was up for considering it as a dual use facility for both military and commercial operations," said Luxon.
"In doing so New Zealand could collectively get a better return on investment from the Whenuapai asset."