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Can Wellington Airport be moved?

The Dom Post reports:

A proposal to relocate Wellington Airport to a site on the hills north of Newlands is worth investigating, Greater Wellington Regional Council chairwoman Fran Wilde says.

The relocation, which has been labelled an “exciting” idea by Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee, has been proposed by Wellington property investor Richard Burrell, who said a completely new airport with a longer runway would have major economic advantages for the region.

It would take a lot of pressure off Wellington City’s roading network and do away with the need for expensive roadworks, including a second Mt Victoria tunnel and more than $300 million that is needed to extend the current airport’s runway.

Mr Burrell said surveyors and engineers had assessed a proposal to put an airport with a 2.4 kilometre runway – able to handle long-haul flights – on farmland at Hunters Hill, between Newlands and Grenada North.

The costings for a new 120ha airport came to about $750 million, far less than the estimated $1.1 billion needed to improve road links to Wellington Airport and to extend the runway.

When I saw the headline, I thought moving the airport is nuts. But if a new airport would cost less than extending the current runway, worth looking at.

If the current Wellington Airport was closed, the land could be sold off for housing and the net effect would be that Wellington would get a better airport with an all-up capital saving of around $500m, Mr Burrell said.

Would be good to be able to get into Wellington from the airport without going through the Mt Vic tunnel.

Mr Brownlee gave his qualified support. “It’s very exciting that someone has had an idea for a new airport, especially as when the private sector comes up with plans of this nature they tend to be fully funded.

However, “the Government has no intention of helping fund a new airport on the hills above Newlands”.

Hopefully that also means the Government won’t help fund extending the runway either.

Political commentator David Farrar posts at Kiwiblog.

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Comments and questions

Surely the $800M of road improvements would still be required if the existing airport were used for housing? And what other infrastructure would require upgrading/replacing?

Unlikely. A lot more people travel to and from the airport each day than would travel to a few houses.

Has any body stood on a hill on a windy day? I think this could be 4 or 5 times the strength of at lower altitudes. Air foils off the hills at these wind speeds would have the airport closed all the time. Probably need a back up airport, maybe ........... the existing one!

Hmm - avoiding the Mt Vic tunnel would be great (particularly between 7.30 - 9 am and between 3.30 and 5.30pm), but has anyone considered the impact on the Motorway and Nguaranga gorge ? Surely it will need to be widened, extended and the Terrace tunnel (which is only 1 lane in) will need to be widened as already these roads cannot cope with traffic levels.

I think also there would need to be about 5 years weather data considered as well, as my understanding is the cloud tends to "hang around" those hills - and may lead to it being closed for probably more than the 3 - 4 days a year that fog hits the current Airport.

Nice idea - but economics hardly likely to stack up.

What a wonderful idea, but they will have to trim a few hills chop down a few trees and move some dirt. This will impact on the indigenous green politician, it was not their idea so it could not work.

Seems good,
1. 95% of traffic to/from the old airport must funnel through the Mt.Vic tunnel, to/from the new one, some to WGTN CBD, some to Porirua and North, and some to the Hutt valley, cutting road traffic in the city.
2. Rail is nearby, so it should not be difficult to have city-airport rail connections, cutting road traffic in the city.
3. With any luck, can be an excuse to delay the Transmission Gully project once again, as there will be less traffic in the city.

I am still waiting to see the full picture on the benefits of extending the existing runway or a new airport. What airlines will fly direct to Wellington, from where and how much will it cost the council to subsidise these loss making services. This all comes down to the old "Show me the money!" and to date all we have seen is Air New Zealand ruling it out.

Emirates have deep pockets maybe they will be the one ?

Sorry I thought today was 10 February not 1 April.

A reasonable idea - but I would have thought that a regional international airport out north of Waikane / Peka Peka would have been a better plan.
- Plenty of open flat space.
- Very unlikely to have weather closures.
- Small extension of rail facilities to provide massive rail boost.
- Ties in with expressway construction.
- Serve both Wellington and Palmerston North metros.
- Significant employment boost for Kapiti Coast.

PJK, your idea is far to sensible!.

The idea has only need to have a look around when on the Kapiti coast to see that this is where the regional growth is.

You are both right. But here's where vested (or soon to be vested) interests kick in. There is an enormous amount of under-the-table game-playing going on in the local airline industry (commercial and private) involving the subordination of the times airports are officially open and when they actually are; the speed and trajectory of airlcraft to supposedly save the proverbial thimble-full of the dreaded 'carbon'; grandiose plans for squadrons of uber-rich private jet owners to fly in at any hour of the night to enjoy our green and pleasant land; etc -- all with land development the aim and monster profits the outcome.
The noise and health impacts on the rest of us has no place in this, and Uncle Gerry gives a fig.
I wonder what Sir Noel Robinson's views are on all of this? Interestingly, he chairs the Auckland Council Committee on Aircraft Noise Control (tautology surely), when he is not sponsoring Lennie Beige's efforts with White Water Rafting developments in Manukau.
Give him a call David. It could be interesting to know what he has up his sleeve.

I am sure our good friend Sir Noel Robinson would be happy to accommodate this as an extension of his existing and fast developing Kapiti Coast airport.

Just shift government to Auckland thd then no real need for anyone to fly to Wgtn ever again.

Here here. The geography, location and the advent of modern air travel makes Wellington wholly unsuited for the location of the capital. And don't even get me started on that horribly narrow and dangerous entrance to the harbour. How will modern mega-ships ever be able to use that?

I see elsewhere the proposed site is described by the head of Aviation New Zealand as as windier, gustier and more prone to being clouded in.

Thanks, but no thanks.

Shades of building it on Mana Island, with a connecting causeway, back when we were evaluating earlier proposals to extend the runway. Back in the 70s.

How ironic launching this yesterday on a day where the Newlands hills were covered in mist and would have seen the airport closed (like it would be a lot more frequently than the current location).