Wellington airport “mystified” by council decision to cancel $ 76 million loan for sea wall upgrades

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Wellington Airport General Manager Steve Sanderson says he is “mystified” by City Council’s decision to cut $ 76 million in funding for the airport seawall upgrade.

Councilors voted 8-7 Thursday to withdraw the loan from the council’s draft 10-year plan, fearing the money would also be used for a proposed $ 300 million runway extension.

Sanderson said in a statement after the vote that he was stunned by the council’s late decision to cut funding, which was critical for the seawall upgrade.

“We are baffled by Wellington city councilors who decide to withdraw funding for the airport seawall, which requires improvements essential for resilience, safety and protection of infrastructure,” said Sanderson.

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Wellington Airport General Manager Steve Sanderson says he is

MONIQUE FORD / STUFF

Wellington Airport General Manager Steve Sanderson says he is “mystified” by Wellington City Council’s decision to withdraw $ 76 million in funds for dike upgrades. (File photo)

“The council debated the wrong issue in confusing this project with the extension of the runway.”

The vote was taken following a proposal by Councilor Tamatha Paul to withdraw funding from the Council’s draft 10-year plan.

It was to be loaned to the airport over three years starting in the seventh year (2027-2028) of the plan.

Paul said she and other councilors believed funding for the trail project had recently been taken from the council budget, but was told by council staff a week ago that he was still there.

The budget indicated funding of $ 76.6 million over three years for the “dikes”, shown as a loan in operating expenses. The council had previously accepted a grant of $ 90 million for the runway extension, as part of capital expenditures.

Wellington City Councilor Tamatha Paul believes the levee funding will also be used for the planned airport runway extension.  (File photo)

Rosa Woods / Stuff

Wellington City Councilor Tamatha Paul believes the levee funding will also be used for the planned airport runway extension. (File photo)

There was considerable confusion among advisers at a long-range plan committee meeting on Thursday over where the money was exactly going, with Paul and others believing he was at least partly helping to expand. Track.

CFO Sara Hay suggested that advisers resolve the uncertainty by stipulating that any loan at the airport would only be used for levee upgrades, if Paul’s proposal to cut funding is unsuccessful.

“We are disappointed that the advisers chose to make this decision without consulting the airport and without specific information,” said Sanderson.

“We would have been happy to discuss these issues with the advisers, but we were not approached or informed of the intention to raise this issue at today’s meeting.

Paul said she met with airport officials recently to discuss their terminal expansion plans.  (File photo)

Rosa Woods / Stuff

Paul said she met with airport officials recently to discuss their terminal expansion plans. (File photo)

“We will be evaluating other funding options, but we would have liked the council to play its role in protecting its own sewers and roads.”

Paul said it was “surprising and spurious” for the airport to claim they were being mystified.

“The airport was alerted to this when the council declared a climate emergency,” Paul said.

“The council and the thousands of Wellingtonians who have been on climate strikes are serious. “

Paul said she met with airport officials on February 5 to discuss concerns about plans to expand the airport terminal.

“They should have no doubts about my position on this issue. I remain happy to discuss this further with them.

Wellington Airport President Tim Brown emailed councilors early Thursday morning after learning about the proposal, urging them to keep the funding.

Brown said its removal would be an “important signal of bad faith” and would have a critical impact on upgrade plans, including a runway extension to allow long-haul flights.

Wellington City Council previously agreed to provide a $ 90 million grant for the proposed runway extension for the airport.  (File photo)

Rosa Woods / Stuff

Wellington City Council previously agreed to provide a $ 90 million grant for the proposed runway extension for the airport. (File photo)

“As airlines change their fleets to improve efficiency, so do the demands of the runway,” said Brown.

“For example, Air New Zealand is introducing A321s to replace its A320s. The new aircraft consumes 22% less fuel per passenger-kilometer. As Air New Zealand completely replaces its fleet, runway modifications will be required to safely accommodate these larger planes.

“Finally, there is the [necessary] extension of the operational and safety length of the runway to allow long-haul flights directly to Asia and North America.

Brown said he wanted the board to “stay true to its original indication of conditional support,” and that a new dike was needed whether or not the runway extension continued. The track project is currently on hold.

Cut funding for the airport seawall – how they voted:

For: Jill Day, Fleur Fitzsimons, Laurie Foon, Sarah Free, Rebecca Matthews, Teri O’Neill, Iona Pannett, Tamatha Paul. Versus: Andy Foster, Diane Calvert, Jenny Condie, Sean Rush, Malcolm Sparrow, Simon Woolf, Nicola Young.

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