26 Aug 2021

Residents vow to fight after panel recommends Wellington Airport expansion plan go ahead

6:16 pm on 26 August 2021

Residents living next to Wellington International Airport are devastated that an independent commission has given approval for a massive extension.

A southerly wind pushed fog from Cook Strait into Wellington this morning.

Wellington Airport. Photo: RNZ / Patrice Allen

Since unveiling $1 billion dollar upgrade plan in October 2019, Wellington International Airport Limited has bought the neighbouring Miramar Golf Course and land belonging to Miramar South School.

The plan - intended to accommodate a forecasted doubling in passenger numbers by 2040 - was put on hold last year after Covid-19 shut down international travel to a trickle.

However, in a decision released this week, the three-person independent panel appointed by Wellington City Council has recommended it be approved.

The panel found that while there would be some "more than minor" adverse affects for nearby residential activities on the east side, they would "not be significant".

Apart from some modifications to mitigate "potential visual amenity effects" for Rongotai Ridge, the commissioners said they were satisfied the plan met the requirements of the Resource Management Act.

The expansion would "assist with the ongoing effective operation of the airport, which is a significant physical resource that contributes meaningfully to the social, economic and cultural wellbeing of people and communities in Wellington and beyond" while "avoiding or mitigating adverse environmental effects to an acceptable degree".

However, Guardians of the Bays co-chair Benoit Pette said the independent commission had failed to properly consider the significant adverse impact on the surrounding neighbourhoods and Wellington's wellbeing overall.

"We are also disappointed in the adverse effect on ratepayers who will be asked to fund the construction of a future giant white elephant," Pette said.

"We firmly believe Wellington Airport should not be allowed to expand into the East Side Area in a climate change crisis as the airport is already responsible for 20 percent of Wellington's green-house gas emissions."

Guardians of the Bays, which has previously won a legal battle against the airport over its plans to extend the runway, was considering its options, Pette said.

A spokesperson for Wellington International Airport Limited said the company was currently considering the recommendations, including conditions to "avoid, remedy or mitigate effects with respect to any future development at the airport".

"As part of the hearing process, we now have until early October to fully consider the recommendations before we make our decision."

Wellington City Council said it was not appropriate for it to comment at this stage, given its dual roles as one-third owner of the airport company and the authority with the statutory responsibility under the Resource Management Act to deal with the Notice of Requirement.

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