by Helen Martin
Last month we reported on the May public meeting called by the Ministry of Transport and held in Helensville to discuss issues around West Auckland Airport Parakai’s application to become an airport authority. At the meeting, airport Manager Simon Lockie was unable to answer any questions regarding the airport’s vision for the future of the business, beyond saying it would be “driven by what the community wants.”
A follow-up meeting was held in June, hosted by Te Awaroa Residents and Ratepayers (TARRA), to discuss the issue further. Mr Lockie was invited but declined to attend. This was disappointing, as it meant there was no opportunity for a meaningful dialogue with the airport owners.
While the application is merely for a change in the airport’s status, concern was expressed that, if granted, the new status would open the door for the introduction of far-reaching actions from a small, privately-owned family business, not necessarily beneficial to the community.
Submissions made from the meeting to the Ministry of Transport included several arguments against the application being accepted, including the point that genuine community/stakeholder engagement has not been provided for. There is concern that airport authority status would confer extraordinary planning powers on a small, privately owned, rural airfield, including the right to recommend designations and to compulsorily acquire land under the Public Works Act. It was pointed out that, as the airport is privately owned, any financial benefits would fall to a private owner, while it could be argued that the costs (noise, loss of amenity, cultural/iwi impacts, traffic etc) would be borne by private citizens who get no upside/benefit from the granting of these powers.
Off-airport issues of concern were the impact on local and regional transport infrastructure, aircraft noise impacts, public safety and wildlife/bird strikes from the Kaipara River at the end of the runway; on-airport issues included use of the airport as a community asset, environmental impact assessment, heritage impacts and integration with/impact on Auckland regional air traffic patterns, particularly if WAA is to be a scheduled passenger traffic airport.
The submissions will be considered by the Ministry of Transport in making their decision whether to further the application to the next stage.
Received on 24 June “In the interest of transparency, the Ministry of Transport intends to publish all submissions received on the application. Submissions will be made available on our website at https://www.transport.govt.nz/air/west-auckland-airport-authority-status/”.
A history of the airport, The Parakai Story, can be found in the online magazine Pacific Wings at http://www.westaucklandairport.co.nz/ParakaiStory.htm
by Helen Martin