June 26, 2008

Airport Rejig Paves Way for Progress

By WEBB, Kathy

HAWKE'S BAY airport is set to be corporatised by October, opening the way to development including a jet-capable runway and business park.

The Hastings district and Napier city councils will retain ownership of nearly all the airport's land, valued at $12 million, but, as part of the corporatisation deal, are believed to have given the Crown first option to buy it if they decide to sell.

The Government wants to use the airport in a Treaty settlement.

The Crown owns 50 per cent of the airport business. The two councils own the rest, and appoint the airport authority that administers it.

The arrangement has stifled development, with the councils obliged to seek permission from the transport minister to spend more than $5000 on any single item. The Government made it clear it was not interested in contributing to developments.

Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule said corporatisation was the best option for the airport, as it would then be able to borrow against assets to finance development.

Hastings and Napier councillors would be asked to sign off the deal and it would go to the Cabinet in about three weeks.

Havelock North's Simon Nixon, a long-time campaigner for runway extensions, said the Government should have handed over its half.

Instead, the Government had been given two of the new board's four seats, which could allow it to extract dividends rather than re- invest in development. "The whole thing stinks," he said.

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