October 3, 2008

Threat to City’s Plan for Airport

Hawke's Bay Airport making push for international status. ------- ------------- Hawke's Bay's push to develop an international airport is a timely reminder Palmerston North must get its act together, according to city airport boss Garry Goodman.

"We need to get on with things here," he said.

A company has been formed to run the Hawke's Bay Airport and there are plans to match Palmerston North's 1900-metre length runway before the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

Hawke's Bay Airport will soon appoint a board and will work on luring a trans-Tasman carrier.

Mr Goodman, Palmerston North International Airport chief executive, said if a trans-Tasman service is operating from the city it will be difficult for Hawke's Bay to get international flights off the ground.

Palmerston North has been without an international service since Freedom Air was wound up in March.

The airport is also unable to extend its runway at the moment because of Milson Line, a road linking Palmerston North with Feilding.

Mr Goodman thought Hawke's Bay had sensed its chance.

"They've had ambitions to have an international service for a long time," he said.

However, Hawke's Bay has run into problems of its own, so far failing to convince State Owned Enterprises Minister Trevor Mallard that 20 hectares of Landcorp land should be leased to the airport so it can extend the runway.

Palmerston North International Airport wants part of Milson Line and Richardsons Line closed to create safety zones at each end of its runway and to allow the runway to be extended. A longer runway would make the airport more competitive because it could ease off on weight restrictions imposed on airlines.

A proposal to shut the roads in the vicinity of the airport is before the Environment Court.

However, a hearing in March was adjourned to allow roading authorities time to produce information on how the effects could be mitigated. The hearing commissioners may order that a deviation road be built. The hearing is to reconvene on December 8, Mr Goodman said.

The Hawke's Bay development would create more pressure to secure an international carrier.

Mr Goodman said he had not dismissed OzJet, which in March pulled out of providing a trans-Tasman service three days prior to its scheduled launch.

OzJet is in the process of acquiring two 737-300 aircraft.

The Australian airline's previous plan was to use one 737-300 aeroplane with 737-200 aircraft as back- up.

Mr Goodman said two 737-300 aircraft would be better.

* Palmerston North City Council is the sole shareholder of the Palmerston North Airport Company.

The Hawke's Bay Airport company's shareholders are Hastings City Council, Napier City Council and the Crown.


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