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Proposal to extend Nelson Airport runway and noise allowances

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Residents living near Nelson Airport are being asked to have their say on a proposed runway extension, and future noise increases.

Air NZ Q300 landing Nelson Airport, from where the company is shifting its heavy maintenance base.

Air NZ Q300 landing Nelson Airport, from where the company is shifting its heavy maintenance base.
Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

Airport chief executive Mark Thompson said the current 1347m runway is one of the shortest in the world. And that limits the number of passengers and amount of freight that airlines can carry in and out of the area.

He said a longer runway is needed to improve operations at the regional airport, which had been signalled by the airport for many years.

Extending the runway to 1510m would mean it could introduce obstacle-free buffer zones at each end (called Runway End Safety Areas) to meet the strictest international safety standards.

“It will remove the payload restrictions for the current operators, and it’s going to give the ability for future aircraft to fly into Nelson, because we don’t know how they’re going to operate with electric planes,” Thompson said.

Thompson said Nelson City Council will be asked to amend its planning provisions and noise limits for the airport, to enable the runway extension.

The development was still likely ten to fifteen years away, he said, but planning should begin so the airport, neighbours and the community could have certainty for the future.

“Before we start any formal process with the council … we’ll be sharing all this information with our neighbours who may be affected by these future changes. This is just the start of a conversation that we’ll be having with the community about our proposals.”

After the request is submitted to the council, submissions can be made about the proposal.

The airport has written to those who could be affected by the proposed noise regulation changes, and residents have been invited to a talk on 12 May.

The current runway could be too short for the type of low-emission aircraft that might be used in the future as the industry transitions to more environmentally sustainable options, Thompson said.

“It’s just really getting the airport to a runway length that will satisfy the needs of today and potentially the future, recognising that the future is still unknown.

“There’s a lot of speculation around the aircraft of the future and how they will be propelled, whether electrically, through electricity, through hydrogen, sustainable fuels.”

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