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Wgtn runway extension won't work: study

NZN 14/08/2016

The chances of Wellington Airport's proposed 350-metre runway extension attracting long-haul flights have been labelled "extremely remote, implausible at best" by opponents.

Travellers are flying to long-haul destinations through Auckland or Christchurch and the region is not a magnet for tourists, says a study commissioned by the Board of Airline Representatives, which includes Air New Zealand.

The Australian-based Ailevon Pacific Aviation Consultants report contests the findings of the airport's own commissioned study, saying they have over-estimated demand for long-haul services to and from Wellington.

The likelihood of airlines establishing new long-haul services to the capital was "extremely remote, implausible at best", it said.

APAC concluded that Wellington's strongest growth has been in short-haul traffic between the capital and Australian cities and the Pacific Islands. There was no market for frequent flights beyond those regions.

Wellington Airport is seeking to make the capital an alternative long-haul destination to Auckland, the country's dominant airline gateway, the existing second gateway Christchurch, and Queenstown.

It is seeking the majority of the runway extension cost of $350 million from central government and Wellington ratepayers, arguing the benefits would accrue more to the country and the region rather than the airport owner.

APAC disclosed in its submission that it has undertaken work for key opponents of the Wellington plan, Air New Zealand, Auckland International Airport, and Queenstown airport but said its analysis was independent.

"The simple fact is that Wellington International Airport's catchment region is too small and too slow-growing to warrant non-stop long-haul services."

In another submission, the New Zealand Air Line Pilots Association says there is increased risk of a serious accident or incident, especially from larger planes, unless there is a 240m long runway end safety area.

President Tim Robinson says an alternative is an Engineered Material Arresting System which is a crushable material installed in the safety area to decelerate an aircraft.

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