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It’s not so good in the hood for aerodrome

Last flight for Air New Zealand at Hood Aerodrome, Masterton PHOTOS/FILE

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Masterton District Council could have risked losing $10 million funding for the development of Hood Aerodrome after the council struggled to approve the Hood Aerodrome master plan on Wednesday.

The plan was eventually passed after more than half an hour of discussion with an amendment that would see key stakeholders consulted.

Project delivery and assets manager Sofia Craig said if they were unable to meet deadlines set in a contract with government, there was a risk of having to re-negotiate, and they could lose the funding.

Kieran McAnulty, Alex Beijen, Grant Robertson, Lyn Patterson and Ron Mark stand in front of some of Peter Jackson’s restored WWI planes after the announcement of Hood Aerodrome’s $10 million funding package.

The $10m for the development of the master plan was funded by the government through the Provincial growth Fund as a “shovel-ready” covid-19 recovery project.

MDC has provided $7m.

Craig said staff had initially intended to discuss the master plan with the public on more than one occasion but found that feedback from the initial consultation process was sufficient to continue the project.

“There would be little value gained from going back out publicly to the general public and asking for further feedback,” Craig said.

Councillor Bex Johnson, who is the chairwoman of the Hood Aerodrome Project Governance Group, said she didn’t accept that there wasn’t a need to go back to stakeholders.

“We promised that at the beginning of the consultation period and it’s very important that we honour that commitment.”

She said council had agreed to give stakeholders the final draft before it went to council for adoption.

“I know for a fact that Wings have not been considered with the final draft, and neither have many of the private stakeholders and also users of Hood.”

Craig said the document had been reviewed by the Hood Aerodrome Safety Committee and its strategic advisory group.

She said the document had also been internally reviewed by the governance team before being presented to council.

“All groups were happy with what had been reflected. Some minor changes were made as a result of those conversations.”

An amendment was made to the decision to say that council would return to stakeholders with the plan.

An MDC spokesperson said the master plan looked at potential future development at Hood over the next 20 or more years, including widening and extending the runway, which would remove the need for LifeFlight to seek ongoing dispensation to operate from Hood.

“Given the changes to infrastructure, the Civil Aviation Authority [CAA] has directed the council to carry out an aeronautical study to assess risks and how they are managed and mitigated.

This is required by CAA by February next year,” the spokesperson said.

Johnson said at the meeting that a lot of the changes that were posed in the document were subject to the aeronautical study.

“It says in the document that there is no justification for the runway extension except if there is a regular passenger service for 30 people or more. It also says in the documentation that it is unlikely.”

She said that of all the people that were consulted, everyone supported the widening of the runway but there was not support for the runway extension.

She said the aeronautical study should come before the adoption of the master plan because it would decide if CAA was required at Hood.

Johnson said she was never against the master plan, but she had concerns about the ability to review the plan into the future.

Craig said the extension of the runway was a requirement of council’s contract with government.

The spokesperson said securing of engineering and survey services for stage one of the master plan would now begin.

“Stage one involves widening of the sealed runway to improve usability and safety of the runway in crosswind conditions.”

Johnson said the master plan unlocked the potential of Hood.

“I believe we will see businesses coming to the district because of Hood, and that means jobs and economic growth. Finalising the master plan is a major step in making this happen,” she said.

She said the aerodrome played a vital part in ensuring the resilience of Wairarapa in the event of an emergency and was also an economic driver.

Johnson said the master plan set the plan for development in a measured way, ensuring what we do now assists us in the future.

She said it was critical that there was an ability to review the plan, because needs could change quickly.

The spokesperson said master planning did not prescribe development but was designed to preserve potential options that may arise.

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