Kapiti News - 2021-10-13


Airport vision puts Ka¯ piti at ‘forefront of innovation’


David Haxton

Agroup seeking to save and enhance Ka¯piti Coast Airport, in the heart of Paraparaumu, has released its vision for the airport, and it includes some major changes. The group is called Ka¯ piti Air Urban, but was formerly Save Ka¯piti Airport, created after airport owner Templeton Group started looking at all options for the airport’s future, including closure. But the airport’s chief executive Chris Simpson, of the Templeton Group, said the group hadn’t engaged with them to understand the realities of developing the land and ensure the plans were practical and feasible. And Simpson has released a discussion document that says the airport is in the wrong place and north of Te Horo is a better place for it. Some of the key points of Ka¯piti Air Urban’s vision are a large investment in housing, creating a new terminal, hangar and control tower on the northeastern side, a new airport terminal entry point off Ka¯piti Rd, repositioning the Ka¯piti Aero Club, new light-aircraft hangars, a tech hub, community hub, green spaces and wetlands, and moving MetService to a different part of the airport. The vision “demonstrates what’s possible in leveraging the district’s most valuable asset while honouring the Te Tiriti principles of protection, partnership, and equity”. Group contributor Marcel van den Assum said “the vision retains the airport as a strategic asset while positioning Ka¯piti at the forefront of avionics and aviation innovation industries, which will deliver educational opportunities and high-value employment to the district’s rangatahi ...”. “This is an ideal opportunity to set our sights higher and invest in our community . . . “Our focus as a community must be on creating new industries, new jobs and attracting new investment . . . ” The group “believes in creating a community purposely built to foster wellbeing and prosperity while respecting and enhancing a connection to our natural landscape”, he said. “This includes developing highquality, affordable housing that would draw young families and young professionals back to the district while retaining and taking advantage of the airport as a key regional asset . . .” Architect Gordon Moller has created sustainable housing guided by The Blue Zone model — a mediumdensity housing model “that improves the wellbeing and longevity of growing populations”. The airport could be a base for aviation innovation and aerospace technology advancement such as driverless plane technology as well as AI-driven insights from aerial data supporting agricultural, marine, and conservation sectors. “Beyond its incredible potential, we must not forget that Ka¯piti Coast Airport is a gateway to critical infrastructure that saves lives and acts as disaster recovery capacity should there be a major natural event that rules out Wellington Airport,” van den Assum said. “This isn’t just about planes, and it’s not just about houses; our priority is our community, and we can’t put a price on the safety and peace of mind of the people within it. “For decades, bad decisions have been made about Ka¯piti Coast Airport. “As the community that calls this region home, we must have a say in its future. Our vision is about driving long-term value creation for our community and our future. “Now we’re asking the 87 per cent of the community, who told us earlier this year that they want to keep their airport, to help us create this future for Ka¯piti and make it a reality.” Simpson said: “Despite having tried to engage with the group multiple times to help them understand the realities of developing the land and to have our experts team up with theirs to ensure their plans are practical and feasible, they’ve never come back to us.” He said “their rhetoric is confusing” from earlier saying creating residential sections was short-sighted, to now including homes and commercial activities dotted around the runway. “But there are very stringent safety rules and regulations about the space required around a runway to operate. “It’s not a simple matter of ‘keep a runway and put stuff around it’. “Hence our desire to engage and ensure their vision is not just a collection of nice drawings.” Simpson said the company was “running an airport and we are working on plans if the airport was to close”. He said the airport “continues to lose money” because of lack of commercial flights, and the runway “needs to be replaced in about four years’ time at a cost of $5 million”. “With regards to our vision, we’re in conversation with hapu¯ about that first and foremost. “In the meantime we continue to run an airport that the vast majority of the Ka¯piti community simply doesn’t use.” Meanwhile Simpson has released a discussion paper outlining why the airport was in the wrong place. “We recently reviewed the location of the airport, and the technical constraints of the current airport site means we can’t make the runway longer to accommodate larger commercial aircraft. “There is no room for a runway extension. “The airport was designed in the 1930s with best practices of the day when it was designed to have three runways of a similar length in a triangle layout. “This means the site is wide but not long.” The discussion paper was prepared by the airport’s manager Simon Lockie, who is also an independent airport consultant who works with airports around New Zealand. Lockie’s paper identifies that there is a lot of land “but not in the right places and we can’t bulldoze over Ka¯piti Rd, or demolish homes to the south to make the runway longer”. The runway is physically 1450m in length, but technical constraints caused by roads, houses and terrain mean that for commercial planes there is only 1042m for landing from the north, or 1187m for landing from the south. It limited the size of aircraft the airport could accept, which in turn limited the opportunities for growth. And the steep terrain to the south of the airport affected the design of the instrument approach from the south requiring a curving approach as a straight-in approach was not possible. “Even if the demand for flights from the airport grew significantly from current traffic levels, it will always hit a ceiling cause by these constraints that prevents it reaching an economically sustainable level.” Simpson said it all could be overcome by relocating to an alternate location — to the north of Te Horo, east of Te Horo Beach. “This has good proximity to SH1 and the railway, reasonably flat and clear land, and approach and departures. “Within this general area there are several possible runway locations possible that should cater to good aviation outcomes. “Naturally, there is much more to consider than just good aviation outcomes when looking to relocate an airport, but as a starting point this document hopefully serves to point out, the current site has some severe inherent difficulties that are not easily overcome.”


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