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A new airport for Wellington

19/05/05

Permalink 20:45:40, by matt Email , 421 words   English (NZ)
Categories: Transportation

A new airport for Wellington

Link: http://jtc.blogs.com/just_left/2005/05/wellington_bloo.html

Jordan makes some very good points about how farcical it is for the national capital to have an airport that closes for days, in the middle of summer!, due to fog. There's also Wellington's seriously deficient design. The runway is too short for modern wide-body aircraft (anything bigger than a 737 is pushing it), and it carries the worst international safety rating: Cobham Drive, with its shallow-buried gas mains and trolley bus lines at the north end; the wide, vertical-sided trench at the other. These are strong reasons to build a replacement airport.

However, there are some equally compelling reasons not to build one. First is the sheer capital cost. A modern airport costs hundreds-of-millions of dollars, and costs several million more each year to maintain it - runway maintenance, keeping a crash rescue service that meets ICAO requirements, the staff to run the place, utilities, etc.
Then there's the problem of where to put it. Suggestions of Paraparaumu Airport have some merit, but could Pram actually cope with such a facility? Can it handle the traffic associated with a major airport? Will there be issues with gaining resource consent for the extension? Auckland Airport is being challenged over runway extensions, by people whose houses didn't even exist when the airport opened or when the first runway extension plans were being drawn up, and it's been taking in wide-body aircraft for three decades. What chance would expansion of a minor local airport have? Big airports require a lot of space, phenomenal amounts. I've driven around the perimeter of AIAL's airside, and it's enormous. At 40-50km/h it takes over 10 minutes to do a loop around about 80% of it. That's a huge facility, and doesn't take into account the car parks or various cargo-handling areas. Is there anywhere even remotely near Wellington that can offer that much space? Because, let's face it, there's no point in building another regional airport, it would have to be built big right from the get-go.

It's an interesting notion, but the only remotely feasible option would be to convert Ohakea, which already has a runway of sufficient length - it's a backup airport for Auckland and Christchurch - and the space for expansion. Minor problem: Ohakea is the base for the remnants of the RNZAF, and that organisation is going to be growing again, not shrinking further.

So, really, I can't see it happening. Better to put money into improving the transport links between Palmerston North and Wellington, because Palmy will be the back-stop for a long time to come.

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Shocking as it may be, I think, and sometimes those thoughts are almost worthy of public contemplation. So, here are those some thoughts, with no guarantees as to their validity, worth, or utility to the cosmos. All thoughts are my own, representing only my thoughts, opinions and positions, unless explicitly otherwise stated. This blog is not an official or unofficial outlet for any company or government body, or for person other than myself.

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