The long awaited upgrade of New Zealand’s most remote regional airport moved one step closer last week when the Board of Chatham Island Airport Ltd signed an agreement with the Provincial Development Unit for $98,000 of funding from the Provincial Growth Fund.
“This is the next step in a vital project for the Chatham Islands, the lengthening and strengthening of the community owned Inia William Tuuta Memorial Airport” says Airport Company Board Chair Allan MacGibbon.
This funding will enable the completion of the technical specifications and preliminary costing of the airport development through the completion of the final geotechnical laboratory tests. It will also support completion of a comprehensive business case for the funding of this vital regional infrastructure project.
Chatham Islands Airport Limited is part of the Chatham Islands Enterprise Trust. It is a charity and public benefit entity owned by all Chatham Islanders.
With the financial support of the Chatham Islands Enterprise Trust, the Airport Company has invested significantly in operational improvements including $750,000 of innovative solar runway lighting upgrades in September. It has also contributed close to $100,000 this year in survey, geotechnical and technical design work to support the technical specification design for runway improvements. However the costs of the upgrades are well beyond the means of the remote island community of around 600 residents.
“There is little doubt that without the Provincial Growth Fund there is little likelihood of the Island Community having the means to advance this project” added Allan. The project to lengthen the current 1370 metre runway out to 1850 metres and strengthen it to cater for larger and faster Code 4C jet aircraft (Boeing 737/Airbus A320 class) stems from the Airport Company’s goal to ensure the airport caters for the Island Community’s social and economic needs for the next 30 to 50 years.
Currently supporting the Air Chathams operated Convair 580 aircraft, the target to accommodate larger code 4C aircraft will ensure any likely replacement for the Convair, a propeller driven 1950’s aircraft very much in its twilight years, can be larger and faster providing huge potential for growth in the burgeoning chilled processed and live seafood sector, a real boon to the expansion of tourism on the island and increase flight safety margins to levels common place on the mainland. In addition, larger and faster aircraft will assist in providing the community with a greater degree of flexibility in maintaining family and community links with the mainland and present the potential for reducing the cost of fresh food, something island families have air freighted on a regular basis.
“The Provincial Growth Fund is an inspired decision of Government and one that provides a real opportunity for regional communities such as ours to realistically provide for the future” says Captain Darron Kyle, Airport Company Board member, Island resident and 28-year Air Chatham’s veteran pilot. “Our Islands contribution to the NZ economy is significant and the ability to fly larger volumes of freight and passengers faster will certainly ensure we can grow to make an even greater contribution to NZ Inc. in the future while providing huge increases in operational safety.” he noted.
The Provincial Growth Fund enabled work will be completed by Christmas with a goal of ensuring safe and compliant operations plus allow larger jet aircraft to service us with larger carrying capacity, increased safety and potentially lower cost of travel by Christmas 2020.
The Chatham Islands are New Zealand’s eastern most region home to around 600 people almost 800km from Wellington in one of our remotest of communities. The Inia William Tuuta Memorial Airport is a Part 139 Certificated Airport located on the main island of Chatham Island. The Airport is owned and operated by the Chatham Islands Airport Company, a registered charity. It consists of a 1370 metre Asphalt Runway, pilot activated (PAL) airport lighting, including Approach Lights, Precision Approach Path Lights (PAPI) and an airport beacon. The Airport Company also owns and operates, through Airways NZ Ltd, a non-directional beacon (NDB). Full passenger terminal facilities are also provided.
Photo Credit: Supplied.