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Wellington Airport runway hearings delayed

NZN 8/02/2017 Rebecca Howard

Infrastructure investor Infratil said a shortage of court space in Wellington due to the November earthquake means hearings on Wellington International Airport's bid to extend the runway to make room for long-haul flights will likely be pushed out to June.

A number of office buildings were damaged by the November 14 Kaikoura earthquake.

The airport is owned 66 per cent by Infratil and 33 per cent by the Wellington City Council.

The airport has applied to build a 355-metre runway extension in a bid to attract long-haul flights from Asia and the United States, at a cost of more than $350 million.

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 stand-alone commercial basis.

The Environment Court hearings have been pending since last year.

A variety of opponents, including national carrier Air New Zealand, have filed to be heard, with ratepayer and resident associations expressing concern at recent estimates that blew the cost of the runway extension out to more than $420m.

Infratil reiterated the cost to central New Zealand of not having air links to the northern hemisphere and the rest of the region.

"Over the last five years, the rest of New Zealand experienced a 39 per cent rise in tourist spend, almost double the 20 per cent growth of the central region," it said in a market update to the NZX.

Infratil also emphasised the ongoing increase in New Zealand-China traffic is benefiting other regions "but is also out of reach of Wellington".

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