Wellington Airport Expansion; you ain’t seen nothing yet, handbags, and hypocrisy

In recent weeks the airport has released more of its plans to expand the airport by paving over paradise at the golf course and taking over the old Miramar School land, at least some, to build more infrastructure. But that’s just the near-term plans with the long-term plans guaranteed to provoke outrage and protest, something that they have documented but not laid out in their latest press releases.

My family has some responsibility for the airport, unfortunately. It was my great-grandfather’s construction company of the time that built a lot of it, tearing down nearby hills to create fill for the runway delivered via a series of massive conveyor belts.

Originally, so the story goes, the airport was destined to be far larger. As the end of World War II approached, the Americans apparently needed more airbases in the pacific to counter the then enemy. A plan was hatched to bulldoze most of Maupuia into Evan’s Bay but never went ahead as the war ended.

It’s been a war out East with the airport and the community for many decades with the local community often at odds with the monopolistic entity that the city itself owns a third of. Despite Council sitting on the WIAL Board, it has never managed to halt the growing rot into the community and it never will. Somewhat conflicted, the Councillors and Mayor have always been silent about the ongoing impact.

Bridge Street on the west side of the airport has been decimated in the last few years due to sound regulations. The shopping precinct has taken out a lot of local businesses. Moa Point has lived under a shroud of uncertainty surrounding the airport expansion.

Plans show that more of the community will be impacted as the rest of Bridge Street is swallowed up, more car parking is put in, SH1 is “realigned” to make the airport wider, a gateway precinct is developed, the southern extension is still on the cards, and a northern extension as well.

WIAL has tried, unsuccessfully, to spin this concrete sprawl that will destroy homes and displace residents and, in my opinion, failed dismally. You’d think at least they could be honest about it.

The latest proposed changes will guarantee two things for the city. Much increased congestion on the city to airport route, which has reached epic proportions as air travel has grown, it is not unusual to see commute times of more than forty-five minutes.

It will have a devastating impact on the Southern Miramar community as well, with several streets impacted. Those residents are stuck in the middle of a situation beyond their control with no support from their local Councillors.

The hypocrisy is very strong with this situation.

The airport is always going to seek to expand for two reasons. First, they can make more money based on the square meterage of the site. But that’s only a small part of why the wanting to pave over thousands of square meters of land that could be arguably used for better and more pressing priorities.

The reality is that air travel demand is steadily increasing and despite all the warnings about the impact of that on the climate, we are not interested in having our freedom to travel curtailed and nor are we interested in reducing our air travel.

While the world burns, we are not prepared to alter our personal behaviour by reducing the amount of air travel that we undertake. So, throwing rocks at the airport, generally, is hypocritical. This is fact, the airport has steadily grown busier over the years and their projections, based on international models and historical data, show that it will continue to grow.

Also hypocritical is the Wellington City Council who declared a climate emergency only a few short weeks ago and have had nothing of any substance to say on this matter. Conflicted, because they own a third of the airport, they find themselves stuck in an impossible place.

And they are hypocrites because many of them campaigned hard on the environment and the first tough issue that comes along, they all vanish from the scene, retiring to the no doubt plush surroundings of the airport boardroom.

It’s not just climate change either, it’s also wider transport or housing, both of which will suffer under the airport’s plans.

The real question is, where does it stop? Because the long-term plans of the airport seem to see much of Miramar and Rongotai turned into an airport city. Somewhat foolish perhaps given that climate change and natural sea-level rise (Wellington is slowly sinking) will render the airport useless at some point as well as most of the flat areas in Eastern Suburbs that will revert to the original swamp.

As per usual, the consultation process for this latest move is faux. The plans are laid, the construction will happen, and despite the inevitable legal moves, it will only be a matter of time. The golf course held out for years in constant back and forth legal battles with WIAL, but in the end, it capitulated.

Just like the Council has over this latest plan.

For more:

Concern about airport expansion into Miramar residential zone

Keep Miramar South Residential

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