Game changing new runway planned for Chatham Islands
The NZ Airports Association (NZ Airports) has welcomed the government’s announcement that the Chatham Islands will receive NZ$40m in COVID-19 recovery funding, the great majority of which will go to upgrading the runway at Tuuta Airport, allowing larger aircraft to land.
The association’s chief executive, Kevin Ward, said the investment will be a real and permanent shot in the arm for the Chatham’s economy and will benefit all its residents.
“The Chathams produces fantastic seafood but the problem has always been getting it to customers. The runway upgrade will allow bigger and faster aircraft to be used,” he enthuses.
“Larger aircraft will also allow easier travel for tourists, so opening up growth in passenger numbers and supporting many other kinds of Chatham businesses. Securing reliable social connections for probably our most isolated population is hugely valuable.”
Ward believes that the Chatham Islands needs a bigger and more capable runway to cater for future aircraft providing the essential air link, and he was very glad to see Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones’s funding announcement.
The upgraded runway will be Boeing 737 capable – more than three times the weight of the current Convair aircraft – and will set the airport up for the next 50 years.
The project also includes safety and security enhancements and an extension to the passenger terminal.
NZ Airports has argued for some time that there is a group of small airports that provide essential air connections for their regions and communities, but which cannot fund major infrastructure and maintenance projects from the limited number of flights they serve.
“A permanent fund for this purpose is the long-term answer and common in other countries, but recent provincial growth fund grants and COVID-19 recovery funding are filling a critical gap in the meantime,” says Ward.