Late last year the Environment Court ruled Wellington International Airport Limited’s (WIAL) resource consent application for its proposed runway extension of 355 metres could be put on hold for a further six months – until 31 May 2019.
The court admitted the process was “frustrating” for many but said that six months would give the airport time to resubmit its proposal and for it be considered by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
In a recap of the situation, Radio New Zealand reported that in 2013, WIAL sought permission from the CAA to extend its runway by 355 metres to allow bigger planes to land.
The CAA accepted those plans, including a 90 metre safety area at each end of the runway.
NZALPA received considerable support for its concerns about such a short Runway End Safety Area (RESA) and successfully challenged the decision in the Supreme Court in December 2017.
This meant the airport had to resubmit its proposal to the CAA.
It was reported that during an earlier judicial conference that opponents of the extension, including local groups Guardians of the Bay and Hue te Taka asked the Environment Court to “throw out the airport's resource consent because of the delays and the change in circumstances.”
While acknowledging the negative impact of the delays, Environment Court representatives also said they were “understandable.”
"We agree that the delay is substantial but we consider that is understandable. It has been brought about by proceedings in a different jurisdiction which had a material impact on the ability to advance these applications," the court said.
In its decision, the court said it faced two options. Either it struck out the current proceedings, thereby wasting the time, cost and effort the parties had already put in; or it put the proceedings on hold for six months - even though this meant continuing uncertainty and there was no guarantee the CAA would have made its decision by then.
While both alternatives were unsatisfactory, it ruled allowing Wellington Airport's application to remain on hold for six months "is the less unsatisfactory of the two unsatisfactory options before us".
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