Airport Runway Extension proposal - public meeting 3 July 2013

Hataitai Bowling Club

Chair:   Richard Randerson

Started with presentations as follows:

1. Her Worship the Mayor, Celia Wade-Brown

2. Wellington Airport Representative, Greg Thomas

3. The resource consent process Warren Ulusele (Urban Development, WCC)

Mayor acknowledged councillors present.

The Mayor presented the case for the Council’s support of the WLG airport proposal, and ratepayers' contribution of $1million towards the resource consent process (impact studies etc).

Notes from Mayor’s speech:

Wellington aspires to be “Where talent wants to live” (quote from the late Prof Sir Paul Callaghan, Wellington scientist).  This proposal desires to identify and mitigate effects, and it’s about shared benefits and costs.

  • Proposal is currently at early stages.

  • Consulted on idea of long-haul flights.  

  • New technology planes not as long-distance as thought (Dreamliners can’t fly fully-laden planes long haul yet from short runways).

  • RMA process is designed to look at environmental and social (neighbourhood effects) to see whether it’s too bad to continue.

Cost-benefit analysis – economic, BERL: direct economic benefits ~NZ$$43million p.a. to Wellington city ≈ 300 jobs.  Currently WCC is 1/3 owner.  The economic return to Airport company would be from an increased 1-3 flights per day – not sufficient to justify airport expenditure to extend runway.  WCC looking for alternative funding sources, (and even if there were spare funding available the airport runway would compete with other items for it!)

This proposal was not consulted in the Annual Plan because of lack of certainty at end of last year.  

Case is based on premise that extending the runway would increase global connectivity to access over 2/3 of world’s population, based on face-to-face business connections being important (currently having to connect via Auckland or Christchurch adds 6 hours to international return connections).  

Wellington has 15% vacancy in CBD offices, and desires to promote businesses to locate here. Education may offer further economic impact – WLG has attractive institutions and WHO ‘safe city’ status.  But having to change planes in AKL or CHC gives perception that WLG is less ‘international’ and less world class.

Estimates are based on notion that a direct long-haul from one place in Asia would attract another 10,000 students and add another 1000 jobs.  This conjecture additionally depends on institutions accepting that number of international students.

Tourism and arts activities would benefit from larger audiences.  Central government is boosting its tourism strategy, focusing on Chinese markets.

Climate Change is an area of concern to the Mayor, and the WCC has a refreshed climate policy.

The walk and cycle way, and wind sculptures would need to be mitigated.  There’s an opportunity to improve access, e.g. to ASB sports centre.  The refreshed climate change plan includes a planned reduction in emissions, looking at value from emissions and working on an emission budget.

WCC provided a one-off $1million to support WLG airport consent process.  Meanwhile, WCC is continuing with its long-haul attraction fund ($0.2m) to promote long-haul arrivals from international ports.  

In summary, the Mayor feels the economic effects are worth the runway extension, but needs to find out the negative effects and mitigate them.  (Noted that a Southern extension option would be much more expensive and invasive).

Greg Thomas, and Mike Brown (Planning), WLG Airport company.

What are the take-home messages?  1) everyone will get chance to submit on process and 2) any extension will meet all the required safety standards the airport currently has.

The end goal is long-haul flights to Asia.  

Wellingtonians and visitors waste about $40million worth of time travelling long-haul out of Wellington (due to added 6 h to the flight on average).  Demand for airport and air services has increased.  In 1989 was 2.5million passengers p.a. Now it’s about 5.4million passengers and projected to be 6million passengers in 2015 (based on scenarios that were not presented).  WLG company will need to extend the terminal again by 2015.

WLG airport serves about 1 million New Zealanders in the lower North Island and upper South Island - over 1000 per day fly out of WLG (towards long haul fights) which is about 3x the demand level that justifies a long haul service.  In 2009 when they set the masterplan, assuming the proposed new Dreamliner aircraft could fly port to port (rather than hub to hub) delivering a full passenger load to Asia from the then runway.  However, in reality the new planes can’t take off in the runway unless they have fewer passengers, and can’t fill up completely with fuel.  Need more runway.

If we don’t do something now, we’ll be revisiting the opportunity again in ten years.

Aircraft noise has reduced significantly due to technological improvements during the early 1990’s.  Noise is not a huge additional impact with bigger planes.

WLG working with aircraft manufacturers to find out the indicative extension required to get the long-haul  flights to WLG, and they think it’s about 300m.  Resource consent process will provide the opportunity to outline the real needs of the extension and other mitigating factors required in the design.

CHC has sustained a daily long-haul to Asia.  Impediment in WLG is the runway.

Warren Ulusele (Urban Development, WCC)

Briefly outlined the RMA process – important we engage in the process to get the concerns considered and tested through this process.  Two decisions for WIAL to make –first is type of approval, resource consent or plan change or designation. Second is process by which decision is made.

Processes under RMA = council hearing, public notification, submissions, heard by commissioners, submitters can speak to submissions, decision can be appealed via the Environment Court.  Process takes 3 months (from notification) for the Council hearing/decision, and if the Council decision is appealed to the Environment Court, then that process can take another 6 months to 12 months depending on Environmental Court resource.  If the Council decision is not appealed (there is a 3-week appeal period following the Council decision) then the decision stands and the work can proceed.

Anther option is to take the application directly to the Environment court (ie. Not having a Council-run hearing/decision) following submission process run by Council.  Report prepared by Council for Environment Court hearing and if you want to participate you can submit to appear before the Environment Court (this process takes 6 to 12 months, depending on Court resource)

EPA – application goes to the Minister for the Environment, and if she approves, then goes to a Board of Enquiry process:  submissions called for, heard by an independent body, like a cross between a council hearing and an Environment Court.  This timeframe is fixed takes 9 months.

The important factor is that each process enables submissions and involvement in the process.  The decision lies with airport as to which process they use for consent.  It is likely to take about 2 years.

General discussion followed

What price the protection of Evans Bay?  

Is there an economic case for progress or is it unjustified?

The Airport plan 2010 showed the Southern option extension, what happened to that?  Noise and environmental mitigation etc.  Richard Randerson said residents pay twice, once in rates to pay for the consent process, and once in the funding of submissions around the consent process.

A marine expert notes the Southern extension would be destroyed by the risks from tidal and sediment hazards, and it would ruin the iconic Southern coast.  Its economic case is not strong.  Numbers not accurate – BERL poor track record in economic forecasting, and no certainty of airlines coming to WLG.  No certainty it will last another 50-100 years.   Questions the rationale for investing a half billion dollars on an airport in middle of a city on a fault line in a tsunami area?  

Figures are disputed by an Airline Industry Association spokesperson.  

Greg reiterated the figures in the BERL economic analysis.  The citizen reiterated that the AIA don’t believe them.  StatsNZ provided the flight figures.  The Mayor offered to get the BERL report made available.  

Question about WCC conflict of interest – it provides consent as well as part-owning WLG airport (as well as regulatory function).

Warren answered: – a number of Council applications occur wherein it applies to itself for a consent.  There is a legal framework to ensure transparency and independence when doing its regulatory functions.

There needs more consistency in approach to this.  The entire case is based around economics, and yet the economic forecasting has numerous holes.  Wellington is a special place we need to protect the environment and give it a high regard.  Ron supported a Southern rather than Northern extension, if there must be one.  

It is highly unlikely this will end up anywhere other than the EPA.  Therefore there’s a lot of funding that goes in to the pro-development fund.  If the council will put $1million in to the ‘pro’-lobby, would the council also fund the ‘community’ to support its own expertise and information gathering on local impacts (social and environmental)?

A representative from the NZ Health and Environment Council reminded us that climate change (as exacerbated by air travel) will become a public health emergency.  WCC has a new CC (climate change) plan, and there’s nothing in there about economics, and how do they manage it?

Her Worship the mayor responded: emissions come from all sorts of sources.  The smart NZ is about finding the ways to continue to have jobs while also protecting the environment.  It’s a balance of ‘what the emissions are worth’.  This part of the WCC plan (two more flights a day) will have to be balanced with other emissions control technologies.  Dreamliners are 20% more efficient than the older planes with respect to emissions, so there is opportunity to save on emissions by going straight to e.g. Singapore rather than going via Auckland.

Emissions from airline travel is 18% - one of the most important. But for a city that wants to connect with the rest of the world, is this something you want to cut?

Question aimed to WLG rep:  Greg have you considered the implications of e.g. birdstrike, and Newlands Ridge and safety if north bound take off has to abort? – there’s a lesser safety margin with an extension north.

Answer: Yes it’s been considered.

Long standing Hataitai resident and member of Evans Bay Yacht Club – had submitted in historical Airport runway programmes that they’d lost a lot of sailing water and there were altered wave patterns in to Evans Bay.  The waves could be brought into the Evans Bay marina removing the only remaining refuge of sheltered water in Wellington city (compared with Chaffers, and Seatoun).  

Once you’ve reclaimed even more land in the harbour, you can’t give it back to the harbour.  

Which airlines have said they’d come if we built it?  A – demand is based on daily service, based on Asian hub (on-flights to Europe).

Concern is that other NZ airports tried to go ‘international’ and it didn’t turn out financially viable.

Case is that businessmen want to be directly connected – the businesses have left Wellington because they need to be internationally connected, so they relocate to Auckland.

Tourism is only a small benefit of a wider picture.

Pauline Swann, Waterfront Watch, from Lyall Bay spoke about the resource consent process and cost of challenging through the Environment Court.  She learned to swim in Evans Bay.  Mentioned examples of friends and relations who fly around, not necessarily directly to WLG, and don’t mind flying via hubs.  Most people have to fly via hubs internationally (e.g. Vancouver via LA, Asia via Singapore).

It was noted that if there is only one daily flight to one Asian centre, that centre itself becomes a new hub where people transfer to fly to other parts of Asia.  So time saved by avoiding an Akld or ChCh hub is simply expended at the new Asian hub, and one with only one daily flight from Wgtn, whereas connections to Akld or ChCh are frequent throughout the day.

Pauline has been in the Environment Court and won several times.  Mediation without prejudice via WCC didn’t work, and the Environment Court process was 2 years long.  Pauline mentioned some relevant references:

  • Richard Norman, yesterday’s paper = WLG is already a place talent wants to live.  Wellingtonians may also have lower environmental impact e.g. 6 tonnes of CO2 emissions per person is only 1/3 national average.

  • Rod Drury – Xero entrepreneur - wants to live here.

  • Tim Naish – geologist; geological reports for Wellington – risks from fault line and other reports in paper on liquefaction risks are greatest around the airport area (23 March 2011 newspaper).

  • Sea level projections for planning should be much higher (e.g. for Roads of National Significance).  Pauline wonders why the council needs to make new assessments, e.g. of sea level rise around airport , when they have already undertaken significant analysis on some areas.

Morrie Love – Chair Wellington Tenths Trust

Wellington Tenths Trust has no position yet.  Certain that if any extension, it has to be North not South.  Fishing productivity is high in South/Cook Strait, it’s very deep and the real Moa Point is under the end of the runway.  Tenths Trust has an interest in crayfish, which goes by air to Asia.  Many people waka ama through here, and they will look at all the issues in this, but as tangata whenua we have to balance commercial, customary and ecological interests in this area.  The Wellington Tenths Trust is yet to do this balancing exercise.  A comprehensive cultural report will be prepared on this matter.

Q what does the word Hataitai mean?  A: Whataitai was a taniwha who was a guardian of the harbour - when there was an island where Miramar peninsular was.

A resident from Rongotai noted that the airport already took 14.5 hectares out of Lyall Bay not to mention the number of houses.  It is taking another 200 houses for planned extensions from Bridge St.

Internationally, it is customary for a traveller to take hours to get to the airport e.g. Melbourne, Sydney, (anywhere in Europe, UK, Asia…).  But in Wellington it’s much quicker to get to the airport, and from there, only an hour to Auckland.  Question = what’s the difference?

Overseas it’s okay to have one airport for several million people.  Why would there be three airports in Melbourne?  New Zealand with two international airports is reasonable.  Why split investment into three?

Dame Fiona Kidman – no-one has mentioned why we love to live here – for the views, for the community nature – doesn’t want more houses to go, to further despoil the harbour.  We’ve been told by PM that WLG is in a bad way (dying in terms of business) – but possibly the government says that because it wants to relocate to Auckland?  We acknowledge that we love Wellington for its environment and we want to protect it. (There was general agreement on this point.)

Paul Bruce (GWRC) who used to work in airport aviation and has witnessed frontal-caused aborted landings noted the safety issues.  WLG has an outstanding safety record.  

However , the safest mode of transport is train or light rail.  The airline profit margins are low – often subsidised as national carriers.  To attract more flights to WLG it’s risky.  In 2008 when oil prices increased, short trips increased and long-haul decreased.   He questions whether the economic prosperity would continue.  

Re students: the case is made that lack of international airport hampers recruitment.

However, Metservice has successfully recruited from all countries with no problem getting staff.  They don’t’ ask whether they need an intermediate landing before getting to WLG.  They come here for the surf, sun, windsurfing, don’t like traffic, parking availability, - the international flights would not help them.  

Cruise liners have increased by 30% per year, tens of thousands are brought by these ships and they compete well against  long-haul for tourism income.

Better public transport would increase resilience of Wellington.  Airlines have other choices, e.g. Ohakea, - could just improve train link to Palmerston North.

A resident of Maupuia noted vibration from noise and from jet blasts.  Vibration from planes sitting at end of runway taking off to the South is already notable, but bigger planes projecting out further into Bay, both Maupuia ridge and Hataitai ridge would amplify to the vibration.

Airport needs to do better comms about changes in terms of roading area.  Can you go from Moa Pt through to Evans Bay? A yes, and it will be via a slow road.  In about two weeks, will announce how the roading will work.  Soon drop off will be directly from north to drop off area.  Then through route will reduce congestion and slow things down.

The discussion was wrapped up.

Richard Randerson pointed out that he doesn’t want to become a one-man campaign.  He would like to see if there’s a body of concerned and committed people who are prepared to form a group.  Needs to be all of us if it is something that will have legs after tonight.

Original Motion: That this group supports the formation of a group to be known as the Guardians of Evans Bay with a primary focus to take all steps necessary to preserve the integrity of Evans Bay.

Q – does this mean stopping the runway extension?  A – wanted to be oblique, but yes, could be explicit:

Revised Motion (Agreed): that this group supports the formation of a group to be known as the Guardians of Evans Bay with a primary focus to take all steps necessary to oppose extension of runway into Evans Bay.

Revised motion proposed and supported by most of room. – attendees agreed with a primary focus on this, which would not exclude the group from taking efforts to oppose a Southern extension too.

Second Motion (Not agreed): that this group supports the formation of a group to be known as the Guardians of Evans Bay with a primary focus to take all steps necessary to oppose extension of runway to the South

Sea Rotmann proposed, Janice Schone 2nd.           (Motion lost)

RR thanked people for coming.  Mayor and contingent from city council.  Greg and Mike for presenting., Jenny Ellis (hall set-up), Kathleen Logan (notes), HRA (supper)

Question – will forms be available elsewhere?  Yes.  The Hataitai Residents’ Association can arrange to have them put on the Hataitai website.