In a proposal that will affect Tamahere, Hamilton Airport is to seek planning approvals to extend its main runway.
The local body-owned airport company, Waikato Regional Airport Ltd (WRAL), has distributed a brochure (available below) to some Tamahere residents and is holding an open day on Tuesday, June 16 from 2pm to 8pm in the airport departure lounge.
The announcement of the airport’s expansion plans come only days after the Pacific Blue airline rescued the airport’s international name by saying it would fly from Hamilton to Sydney and Brisbane from September. Air New Zealand stopped trans-Tasman flights from Hamilton in April.
WRAL, owned by five local bodies, Hamilton City Council, Waipa, Waikato, Matamata-Piako and Otorohanga district councils, most recently spent $15.5 million to upgrade the terminal to better handle international flights, which subsequently disappeared with Air New Zealand’s departure.
However, now WRAL has developed a 20-year “master plan”.
Projected to cost about $22 million, the runway extension would enable the airport to attract wide-bodied jet aircraft capable of long-haul flights, WRAL said.
Airport chief executive Chris Doak told the Waikato Times this would include both airlines that flew here via Australia as well as those coming directly from Asia and using Hamilton as an alternative to Auckland.
He said there were also opportunities to attract cargo carriers that required a longer runway to handle fully-laden aircraft.
But Mr Doak said it was unlikely the runway extension would proceed in the near future as there was no business case for it yet and gaining planning permission was likely to take up to two years.
By lengthening the runway to almost 3000 metres, it would become the third longest in New Zealand after Auckland and Christchurch.
Mr Doak said the airport had recently completed its 20-year master plan, providing the blueprint for the proposed runway extension.
It was likely the extension would be completed in two stages with stage one estimated to be about $13 million.
The proposed project would mean a longer, narrower noise boundary resulting in significant areas of land, and the houses on it, coming out of the current controlled area.
“Realistically it could be several years before any development gets under way,” Doak told the Waikato Times.
“What will ultimately drive the development, if approved, will be both airline and shareholder commitments.
“The board considered it prudent to put the planning process in place now so it could quickly respond to airline interest when that was appropriate in the future,” Mr Doak said.
A report from Waikato University estimated that the total economic impact of an extension to 2500 metres over 20 years would be in the vicinity of $1 billion, representing an increase in regional activity of $50 million per year.