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Evans Bay group will fight runway extension

Jul 11th, 2013 | By | Category: Editor's Picks, Lead Story, Most Popular, News

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EVANS Bay people are gearing up to oppose the extension of Wellington Airport to take long-haul international flights.

Some 100 Wellingtonians who turned out to a meeting in Hataitai agreed to form the Guardians of Evans Bay to prepare a case against extending the runway’s northern approaches 300 metres out into the harbour.

Evans Bay is an iconic part of the harbour and the extension would be “a real intrusion and destroy its beauty”, said meeting organiser Richard Randerson.

He questioned whether it was even necessary, saying the economic case was weak, and he was concerned about the potential environmental side-effects, including increased noise pollution.

Author Dame Fiona Kidman (pictured here: DomPost Image), who attended the meeting, said the runway would detract from what made the bay special: “We love Wellington for its environment and we want to protect it.”

11-wgn-fiona1According to minutes from the meeting, other issues included permanent alteration of the harbour’s coastline, detrimental effects on boaties and the disenfranchising of Wellington ratepayers if Wellington City Council acted as both project promoter and decision maker for the resource consent.

Economic concerns were based on doubts over the accuracy of the economic forecast and claims about increased international flights, citing other airports in New Zealand which had expanded to varying degrees of success.

The meeting passed a resolution creating a group to take “all steps necessary” to stop the proposed 10-metre-high runway extension and keep residents informed about the campaign.A second move to oppose extending the runway at its southern end was voted down.

ExtensionMAIN 2The Evans Bay extension plan – shown here in a graphic by Steve Mahoney – was defended at the meeting by Mayor Celia Wade-Brown, who attended with Wellington City Council and airport officials.

She said economic benefits could include the creation of an extra 300 jobs for the region (other estimates are as high as 1000).

In conjuncture with the city’s current tourism drive in Asia, specifically China, the potential for the extension to attract long-haul flights from Asia could bring 10,000 extra students to the region, along with creating a wider global audience for tourist attractions and arts events.

Expanding into Evans Bay was more practical than pushing the runway out to the south, she told the meeting.

The runway extension – which will take the runway length to 2300 metres – is expected to take two years in the resource consent stage and then a further five years for construction, at a cost of $300 million.

The council has agreed 11-2 to split the $2 million share of the resource consent process with Wellington airport.

Residents concern surrounding the environmental impact on the area were strong, with one resident stating that once the coastline was changed, it was changed for good, so a detailed investigation on the possible environmental effects was needed.

The meeting decided next steps for Guardians of Evans Bay would be further establishing the group, looking at the environmental effects and preparing a case for the resource consent hearings.

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