International Airport Limited ( Wial )

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Background – the policy issue

In April 2016, Wellington International Airport Limited (“WIAL”) sought resource consent to undertake an extension of the Wellington International Airport runway in Rongotai, Wellington. The proposed extension would reclaim 10.82 hectares south of the airport into Lyall Bay. The proposal - and subsequent research commissioned by WIAL - suggest the problem is an economic cost to New Zealand, insofar that business-as-usual incurs an opportunity cost of missed revenue where the current runway length cannot accommodate wide-bodied aircraft (such as Boeing 777, Boeing 787 and the Airbus A350-900 range). An extension to the runway of 355 metres would allow these aircraft to land at the Wellington International
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Two parties own WIAL: 66 percent by Infratil (a New Zealand-based infrastructure investment company), and 34 percent by Wellington City Council (Wellington’s territorial authority). Accordingly, Wellington City Council has pledged 90 million dollars (33 percent of the total estimated cost of 300 million). In effect, Wellington’s ratepayers will fund this investment. This makes the airport extension not only a policy issue of economic viability, nor is it only an issue of environmental concern, but additionally, an issue of taxation – especially so if future funding proposals suggest further government expenditure.


Of 776 submissions received by Wellington City Council and Greater Wellington Regional Council, nearly 68 percent - or 527 submissions - opposed the proposed runway extension (GWRC and WCC, 2016). This suggests significant ambiguity on values and norms (as to the best action, or whether there should be action). Combined with ambiguity on knowledge (as to the project’s economic viability and environmental consequences), this makes for a fully unstructured policy problem according to Hisschemöller and Hoppe’s typology (1995). This requires “policy as learning”, where decision-makers can gain from interaction and engagement with the following stakeholders:
• Groups with cultural interests: residents of Rongotai, Lyall Bay, Miramar and Moa Point; local iwi; Māori as a whole; and

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