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Hood plan flies in the face of reason, says pilot

Masterton Airport when Air New Zealand operated flights at Hood Aerodrome. PHOTO/FILE

TOM TAYLOR
[email protected]

A Masterton pilot associated with Hood Aerodrome for 70 years says plans to extend its runway are ill-advised.

His call to halt the extension comes after nearby residents expressed frustration with the project at a master plan meeting on Monday.

The pilot, who asked not to be named, said there had been a “shroud of secrecy” over plans for Hood Aerodrome, with landowners kept out of the loop.

“This sort of secrecy is not on … no one was consulted. When all is said and done, we as ratepayers, me as a property investor on the aerodrome, none of us knew about this. It just came out of the blue.”

At last Monday’s community meeting, Beca representatives Adam Vorstermans and Rick Pemberton presented their reasoning for a runway length of 1280 metres.

They said the length would be suitable for small commercial airlines using Saab 340 and Q300 aircraft.

The pilot said extending the runway would be futile because he did not expect commercial airlines to return to Masterton.

He said many airlines were also condensing their fleets, and production of aircraft such as the Saab 340 had been discontinued.

“There’s not going to be one little bit of benefit to Joe Public in the town … we’re doing it to provide for aircraft that are disappearing out of the skies.”

Vostermans and Pemberton had proposed three different concepts for the aerodrome’s development.

Concepts 1 and 2 would divert Manaia Rd around the extended runway, while Concept 3 would divert Manaia Rd to the north to connect with Andrew St in Kuripuni.

While some Manaia Rd residents said they had received little warning of the plans, other residents were less concerned by the proposed changes.

National Party Wairarapa candidate and Manaia Rd resident Mike Butterick said he would accept whatever proposal was chosen.

“If we need to have a bit of change, that’s the way it is. Whether they block Manaia Rd off or do a loop … if it’s what we need to do for growth in Masterton then so be it.”

Butterick said the aerodrome master plan had to look a long way into the future if it would have a practical use.

“There’s no point, for example, in plonking a whole lot of houses on the land on the northern end and then deciding that we need more capacity at the airport.”

Butterick said although it was convenient for residents to drive the short distance up Manaia Rd into town, a detour to Andrew St would not add much travel time.

However, Butterick said there could be issues for residents of Andrew St and surrounding areas, who would experience higher traffic volumes, including logging trucks, passing through.

“I would imagine they’re probably not going to be super impressed, but we’ve got to make long-term plans and allow for that growth.”

Butterick said the planning process needed to include strategies to mitigate the effect of any increase in traffic.

Fellow Manaia Rd resident and 2016 Masterton District Council candidate Ross Cottle said he was not concerned about a diversion to Manaia Rd.

“It won’t particularly worry me if they put a bend in it and we have to go around it – that’s probably not a big deal.”

Cottle supported the project but worried excessive traffic would pass through Kuripuni if Concept 3 went ahead.

“That would push a lot of big logging and stock trucks through town, and I think that would be a very silly idea.”

Cottle said, overall, the development would benefit Masterton residents, including business people who could use it for travel.

“It won’t become fully evident or used in the next 10 or 15 years, but I certainly do see it as being a plus for Wairarapa generally.”

MDC Hood Aerodrome Governance Group chairwoman Bex Johnson said elected members of the council received the master plan concepts only two days before they went public.

“They were shared with property owners over the same period, ie before they were made public.”

Beca had been openly discussing possible requirements with operators and stakeholders since March, she said, but there was little to show property owners before the draft concepts were finalised.

The plan aimed to ensure it delivered maximum value to ratepayers over time, Johnson said.

“The master plan aims to look 20 or 30 years into the future and ensure that what we do enables development, rather than creating obstacles for projects we haven’t yet envisaged.

“There are exciting opportunities to make Hood a true community facility that delivers jobs and economic growth, but it requires proper planning.”

Johnson said Hood Aerodrome was one of the council’s key assets and said the infrastructure work proposed for the next five years was more than just the runway extension.

MDC chief executive Kath Ross agreed, saying while the announcement of government funding was made on July 15 last year, the concepts were finalised only on May 4, 2021.

“Once these had been received, meetings were immediately set up by council staff to share the concepts with individual landowners whose properties might be affected. This took place over the following few days.”

The concepts were made public on the council’s website on May 7 to allow them to be considered before the community workshop on May 10, she said.

Ross confirmed council staff met all five landowners whose properties would potentially be affected. Beca had also been working with operators and other stakeholders since March to gather information used to develop the three concepts, she said.

“This engagement has included individual discussions, group meetings, and invitations for email submissions.”

The Strategic Advisory Group for Hood Aerodrome had also been involved in the process.

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