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Kapiti Airport: Not enough runway, passengers, planes or options

27 July 2021, Bennett Richardson

Geographically hemmed in, surrounded by housing and chronically underused, the future of Kapiti Coast Airport looks less secure each passing day.

Chief executive Chris Simpson told the Ticker that it was hard to imagine it being a viable enterprise in its current form.

“No one seems to be coming to the party with regards to either investing into the airport or to making it work from a commercial planes perspective,” he said.

Planes used by carriers such as Air New Zealand and Jetstar could not fly into the airport due to limited runway capacity, leaving just the smaller operators as options.

The runway was physically 1450 metres in length, but technical constraints caused by roads, houses and terrain meant that there was only 1042 metres for landing from the north, or 1187 metres for landing from the south.

Air Chathams currently used Kapiti Coast Airport for flights to Auckland, while Sounds Air flew to Blenheim and Nelson.

“The real issue you have is finding suitable aircraft to service the airport,” Simpson said.

But a lack of users meant the economics were poor as well. An average of around only 30 passengers used the airport each day.

Owned by NZPropCo Ltd, the airport was losing a $1.2m a year.

Simpson said that a number of groups in the Kāpiti community were talking to the airport about opportunities to convert it into housing or mixed use development, given its lack of commercial viability as an airport.

“Those conversations have been happening with us,” he said.

“With regards to what is the opportunity cost for the best use of the land, that’s an opportunity to redevelop the land.”

It may simply be a matter of time for the airport, which was designed in the 1930s to accommodate flying practices of the time.

Simpson said moving the airport to a new location further north would solve many of its problems. But this would most likely require significant assistance from Kāpiti Coast District Council and central government.

The council’s latest longterm plan discussed the idea of the council having a role in management of any airport in the region. At the same time, the plan acknowledged that the council could not do it on its own.

“Because the airport is privately-owned, any future role for council could only happen with the owners’ support,” the longterm plan said.

“The current owners have engaged with the council and have expressed a desire to work collaboratively with us, whatever the future of their asset may be.”

Simpson also recently met with transport minister Michael Wood, but the government had not taken any position on the matter.

“He listened politely,” Simpson said.

“We think the minister appreciated our situation and the ongoing challenges we’re facing.”

Technical and Geographic Constraints means Kapiti Airport is in the wrong location.

09 July 2021

Total Runway Length: there is no room for a runway extension.

The airport was designed in the 1930s with best practices of the day. It was designed to have 3 similar length runways in a triangle layout. This means the site is wide, but not long.

There is a lot of land, but not in the right places.

Available Runway Length: The runway is physically 1450m in length, but technical constraints caused by roads, houses and terrain mean that for planes there is available 1042m for landing from the North, or 1187m for landing from the South.

Practically, this limits the size of aircraft the airport can accept. The largest being the Bombardier Q300s operated by Air NZ. These have 58 seats, but were not able to use all of them when flying from Kapiti due to the available runway length. Air NZ are phasing these aircraft out (they will not be replaced) in favour of the ATR72, which cannot practically land here.

Air Chathams SAAB 340s are currently the largest aircraft using the airport at 38 seats. Other than Air Chathams and Air NZ, no other airline currently has a 30 seat plus aircraft capable of using the airport.

This seriously limits opportunities for growth. Ie: If the route demand grew, the new problem would be finding suitable aircraft to service the demand.

Terrain to the South: The steep terrain to the South of the airport affects the design of the instrument approach from the South requiring a ‘curving approach’ as a ‘straight in’ approach is not possible. This in turn means the instrument approach sometimes conflicts with the Visual approach. These are ‘showstoppers’ as there is no simple way to overcome these issues at the current location.

Even if the demand for flights from the airport grew significantly from current traffic levels, it will always hit a ceiling cause by these constraints that prevents it reaching an economically sustainable level. With due consideration, all the above could be overcome by relocating to an alternate location.

Kapiti Airport CEO met with Minister of Transport, outlined failing economics of small, underutilised airport

24 June 2021

The CEO of Kāpiti Coast Airport met Transport Minister Michael Wood recently to discuss the challenges of operating the small aerodrome in the heart of Paraparaumu.

“It was a very constructive meeting in which we outlined our financial position and dwindling number of commercial flights at the airport,” chief executive Chris Simpson said.

“We think the Minister appreciated our situation and the ongoing challenges we’re facing.”

Mr Simpson said the Kāpiti region was growing rapidly with huge demand for housing and associated infrastructure, yet residents were choosing not to fly via the airport.

The local economy grew 0.3% in the year to March 2021, and employment was up 1.8% in the past year, while the Council issued 57 new residential building consents in the March quarter.

“This is good for the region, but our passenger numbers are far too low to run a viable airport. Fewer than 200 fee paying passengers use the airport each week which is less than 0.5 per cent of the Kāpiti population. We recognise that people like the ‘idea’ of a local airport, but the fact remains that 99.5 per cent of the population aren’t using it and we are beginning to feel like the Yellow Pages – wanted and expected but not really used.”

Mr Simpson said the Airport hadn’t recovered from Air New Zealand’s withdrawal in 2018 and it was now losing about $1.2 million a year from operating the airport and would need to invest up to $5 million to upgrade the runway by 2025.

“There’s so much going on in Kāpiti and we want to contribute in a meaningful way, however, Kāpiti people aren’t using the airport.”

Media inquiries:
Chris Simpson
Chief executive, Kāpiti Coast Airport
021 922 787

Our CEO was interviewed recently regarding what is actually happening at the airport.


Stuff Link

Recently, you may have heard some mistruths about the Kapiti airport, so we just wanted to say to here are some facts regarding four key points:

KAPITI AIRPORT IS NOT A LIFELINE UTILITY

The reality is that it isn’t a lifeline/emergency because under the Civil Defence Emergency Act 2002, Kapiti is not listed as a Lifeline Utility, see link below.

https://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2002/0033/latest/DLM151443.html

Included below is schedule 1 of the Civil Defence Act with an asterisk showing that Kapiti airport isn't included.


Hope that clarifies the miscommunication that is being promoted within the community that it is a lifeline/emergency utility. The Government hasn’t deemed it to be when National sold it in 1995.

 

Aircraft Movements have significantly declined

Any comments out in the community saying that the Airport is thriving, are wrong.

  1. Aircraft movements in 2007 were approx. 53,000 per annum
  2. 2018 they were approx. 25,000 aircraft movements - then Air New Zealand left.
  3. 2019 there were approx. 19,000 aircraft movements (before Covid).
  4. 2020 during Covid there were 16,000 aircraft movements.


The sale of the airport was reviewed by the auditor general in 2005

The government has already reviewed the sale of the airport in 2005.

From the report:

“The overall policy framework which dictated the disposal of the aerodrome was that: Civil airports and aerodromes should be run as businesses. Government departments should not be involved in running businesses. State-owned businesses that were profitable should be corporatised and either operated as State enterprises or privatised. State-owned businesses that were not commercially viable should be disposed of on the open market. Paraparaumu Aerodrome was not considered a commercially viable operation in public ownership. Accordingly, in April 1993 Ministers directed that it should be sold.

In 2002, a group of Airport users presented a petition to the House of Representatives entitled “that Parliament legislate to safeguard the long-term viability of Paraparaumu Airport as a full operational facility”. The Auditor General said there should be no obligation on any new owner of the aerodrome to keep it operational if it wasn’t financially viable. And the Ministry’s wish to not place the Government in a position where it would have to re-acquire the aerodrome should it prove commercially unviable under new ownership.”

Hence why the Labour government, nor previous John Key Government desired to purchase the airport back.

 

Noise complaints are increasing