Wellington Airport says $76 million needed for seawalls irrespective of extension plans

Alarm bells have been set ringing at Wellington City Council this morning over $76 million set aside in the Long Term Plan for “airport seawalls”.

It has been a tumultuous two weeks for the council since its last Long Term Plan Committee meeting.

During that time, Mayor Andy Foster announced an independent review of the council’s governance and appointed Peter Winder to do the job.

A controversial proposal to privatise part of the Central Library building went nuclear.

But this morning, it’s a mysterious line in the budget regarding the airport that has people up in arms.

In the council’s operating expenditure budget there is $76m allocated over three years for “airport seawalls”.

Climate change portfolio leader councillor Tamatha Paul said she has been advised the money is a loan.

But she said it was unclear exactly what the funding was for and will make a bid to have it removed.

“With all the crises we are experiencing – Covid-19, climate change, and failing infrastructure – we should be crystal clear about what we allocating $76 million towards.

“This loan must be removed as a clear signal to Wellington that we are dedicated to climate action and that we will hold some of the biggest polluters in town to account.”

A Wellington Airport spokesperson said the funding is tagged to the sea wall upgrade and not the runway extension.

The seawall upgrade needs to be done irrespective of the extension, they said.

“It is essential for resilience, safety and infrastructure protection. The seawall protects council assets including Wellington’s main sewerage connection to Moa Point, roading between Lyall Bay, Breaker Bay and Moa Point.

“These assets will be more immediately affected than airport assets. As such, some council partnership in funding the seawall is appropriate.”

The spokesperson said the airport would have been happy to discuss these matters with councillors, but were not approached.

Paul said she asked for council officer advice on Friday evening and only received answers late in the day yesterday. She said she got a response from the airport one hour before the LTP meeting this morning.

The confusion around the funding has sent alarm bells ringing and prompted lawyers, advocacy groups and climate activists to argue their case against airport expansion plans.

Guardians of the Bays representative Tim Jones said a runway extension was “utterly unacceptable” in a climate emergency.

“Wellington City Council should have no part in funding it, however the funding is described in the Long Term Plan.”

Jones said the extension would also be bad for the local environment and lead to increases in noise and construction traffic.

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