Numbers stack up for runway extension
chief executive of Wellington International Airport Ltd
The Environment Court’s recent rejection of a request to strike out the resource consent application for the proposed Wellington Airport runway extension may have left some Wellingtonians pondering whether the project remains on track (Six more months for plan to take flight, Jan 8).
The continued legal arguments mean that as a region we continue to miss out on the benefits and opportunities this transformative project will deliver.
It’s important to note that the judgment does not mean Wellington Airport has another six months to resubmit its consent application to the Environment Court.
Wellington Airport is awaiting a decision by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) on the length of the planned extension’s runway end safety areas. That is the sole reason we asked the Environment Court to keep our current resource consent application on hold.
There has been overwhelming backing from Wellingtonians, including the business community, tertiary and education institutes, tourism organisations and the creative and film sector.
That’s because direct longhaul flights will deliver real and tangible results for central New Zealand and beyond.
It is worth reminding readers why we are determined to stay the course despite the twists and Steve Sanderson
turns and the efforts of a small but vocal minority.
First of all, we have invested in comprehensive research and analysis to confirm the numbers stacked up – this is not a pipe dream or a flight of fancy.
A benefit-cost analysis by research group Sapere shows a net economic benefit for New Zealand of $2.3 billion and a ratio of 2.3. For every $1 invested in the runway extension there will be up to $7.6 in net economic benefit for the country.
There is also the national benefit of having a strategically located airport that can help cater for the sustainable growth in overseas visitors. It will spread the infrastructure load away from Auckland and better enable regional dispersal along with improving our resilience.
Airlines are willing to boost services out of Wellington, with growing numbers of Australian and Pacific flights along with the new Singapore Airlines service. Our own international passenger numbers have grown by 20 per cent over the past four years.
Independent analysis by route development experts InterVISTAS has confirmed a significant, growing and commercially viable market exists for direct long-haul flights into and out of Wellington.
Since that analysis was undertaken, the market has continued to grow and the benefits only get more compelling. The current longhaul market where Wellington is the closest international airport is estimated to be 700,000 passengers per year.
Asia-Pacific passenger numbers remain forecast to more than double by 2035 and New Zealand’s Tourism 2025 framework is well on track to increase tourism’s value to $41b and ensure sustainable air connectivity. But without direct long-haul flights for the centre of the country, there is a lot we are missing out on.
So what will the extension mean for travellers?
The destinations that are opened up by new airlines and the capability of new aircraft will provide New Zealand travellers with more choice, time and cost savings.
Extending the runway by 355 metres will double Wellington’s connectivity to the world to 65 per cent within one stop and slash international travelling time from Wellington by up to 50 per cent.
Travelling long haul out of Auckland from the Wellington region takes about 48 per cent more time to Los Angeles and San Francisco, 39 per cent to Singapore and 30 per cent to Hong Kong. Saving this time would also translate to fuel savings by eliminating indirect routes and stops.
Wellington Stadium, Brooklyn Wind Turbine and Te Papa all faced some opposition. They are now embraced by Wellingtonians and visitors alike. The proposed runway extension will be another gamechanger for the region.
‘‘Without direct long-haul flights for the centre of the country, there is a lot we are missing out on.’’