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Wellington Airport fires up runway talks

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 28/09/2016 Sophie Boot

Wellington International Airport has asked the city and regional councils to re-start its application to extend the runway.

The airport wants to build a 350-metre runway extension in a bid to attract long-haul flights from Asia and the United States, at a cost of $300 million.

The airport's 66 per cent controlling shareholder, Infratil, is pushing for central and local government funding to cover most of the capital costs, arguing the investment is in the national and regional interest while not being viable on a standalone commercial basis.

Wellington City Council owns the remaining third.

The airport applied for consent in April, with public submissions closed in mid-August, but the application was suspended to allow experts "further time to consider others' views before moving forward" to Environment Court hearings, it said in a statement.

Chief executive Steve Sanderson said he was confident the airport could address all the key concerns through its proposed conditions and management plans.

"The Environment Court will need to weigh up these matters, the mitigation proposed and the overall benefits of the project when it comes to consider the application," Sanderson said.

"There is widespread support from the business community, tertiary and education institutions, tourism organisations, the creative and film sector, and individuals all submitting on the benefits they see for the region."

Almost every airline operating to and from New Zealand is opposed to the proposed extension. Air New Zealand is particularly opposed as it structures its long-haul international routes through Auckland.

Airlines who would benefit from the extended runway would need a major hub in Asia or North America as the consents sought would enable direct long-haul services from Wellington to those destinations.

When announcing the initial consent application in April, Sanderson said it was not surprising Air New Zealand and Qantas both said they wouldn't use the runway, as they don't have hubs in those locations, and the viability of the plan did not depend on their support.

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