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Govt injects $11.3 million

Finance Minister Grant Robertson on Wednesday announced a $10 million funding package for Hood Aerodrome, and $1.3 million for Masterton’s skatepark. PHOTO/STEVE RENDLE

into airport and skatepark projects

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Finance Minister Grant Robertson travelled to Hood Aerodrome in Masterton on Wednesday afternoon to announce a $10 million funding package for the airport, as well as $1.3m in funding to pay for Masterton’s skatepark revamp.

The aerodrome upgrade, totalling $17m, would widen and extend the runway, including the realigning of the road and the purchasing of strategic land. It would also extend the taxiway and apron, upgrade the lighting, improve effluent, water and power on site, and fund increased security and Civil Aviation Authority certification.

Robertson said the funding would transform the aerodrome “into a modern, functional airport, with capacity for growth beyond its current activity”.

Work would begin on the project this year, with initial construction generating 53 new jobs for local people.

Two hundred employment opportunities would become available once the airport was fully operational.

“This particular fund was borne out of the need to get activity going in the wake of covid-19, so we went looking for projects that were ready to go, that were also going to provide a lot of spin-off benefits as well,” Robertson said. “We’re going to be able to start work here before the end of the year, and we’re going to deliver jobs, so it ticked all the boxes.”

Defence Minister Ron Mark said he was very positive about the revamp and what it would bring to Wairarapa.

“For those of us that live here and want to see this region develop and grow, these projects are really important.”

Mark said the upgrades would improve the viability for a commercial airline to start operating from Masterton – something that he had advocated since he was the mayor of Carterton.

“We’re back in a good space again. What I’m really keen to see is an airline recommence regional flights from Masterton to Auckland.

“This announcement makes it now viable for an airline to come into it. Once the runway is widened, once the infrastructure is put in, once they’ve got CAA approval, it changes the whole ball game.”

Labour list MP Kieran McAnulty said that his proximity to ministers as junior whip meant that he was able to arrange meetings with  people such as Bob Francis and Dame Margaret Bazley – particularly during the Labour caucus in Martinborough – which helped key Wairarapa projects get government exposure.

“We met with the ministers about the water storage scheme and we’ve achieved that, and we met about the rail and we’ve achieved that, and we’ve met about this and now it’s come to fruition.

“I’m absolutely delighted today, but it really is a great team effort, it’s a really good team story, and one I think Wairarapa should be proud of – everyone pitched in.”

Mark Johnston, chief executive of Life Flight, said he was very positive about the changes to the airport, which would allow for safer rescue and air ambulance operations.

“It’s good for us – we fly here several times a week, both in our fixed-wing air ambulance planes, and in our Westpac rescue chopper that we operate out of Wellington airport.

“Often in Masterton the weather can be a challenge, and the airfield itself, given not just the length but the width of the runway, can be a little bit of a challenge as well.”

Johnston said that Life Flight pilots were going to be “really happy” with the infrastructure changes, which would make the life-saving flights easier to operate.

While the aerodrome took centre stage, Mayor Lyn Patterson said she was also delighted about Robertson’s announcement that the government would be funding the skatepark. Before the news, Masterton District Council had prepared to source the needed funding from elsewhere.

“I’m really excited about it, and quite a lot of our youth have been involved in that, so this is about them as well,” Patterson said.

“I’m really thrilled for our youth and for our young ones.”

Patterson said she and the other councillors had a hunch about the funding, but couldn’t be sure. At the time of Wednesday’s announcement, Masterton councillors were in Hastings visiting a possible civic centre option.

“We had a hint, but you never know… I just had to ring them to tell them. We knew there was an announcement today [Wednesday], and we knew it must be about Hood, but it’s an awesome surprise – we’re all rapt.”

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