Since 2011 Waikato Regional Airport Ltd (WRAL) has had 16 hectares of land designated for a potential runway extension, protecting the land from other development in case a runway extension was needed.
Today after reports from aviation, legal and planning experts, WRAL chief executive Mark Morgan confirmed there was “no compelling argument” to extend the runway, and the company will begin the process of letting the designations lapse.
Hamilton-Kirikiriroa is still an international-ready airport, he said – if that’s what airlines want. Hamilton’s runway was already the country’s fourth longest, longer than Wellington. Infrastructure is already in place to enable flights to Australia, the South Pacific and even Singapore without extending the existing runway.
“Nothing has changed in that regard,” Morgan said. “We are not limiting future use of the airport – in fact we would love to see an international airline come back to Hamilton. We already have the base infrastructure needed for narrow body jets which make up the majority of the international fleet.”
“However the decision on what airport to use is up to airlines - we don’t get to instruct the airlines how to run their business. They will not expand into new commercial routes unless those routes are financially viable, that’s the bottom line.”
The runway decision is part of a wider, just-released 30-year masterplan for the airport discussed with WRAL’s five Council shareholders today – Hamilton City, Waipā District, Waikato District, Matamata-Piako District and Otorohanga District Councils.
While WRAL will continue to run a strong diversification strategy, the company will continue to focus heavily on the aeronautical business, Morgan said.
“Aviation is our prime purpose and that won’t change. In the last five years, we’ve invested around $30 million in aeronautical assets because the airport is an important and successful long-term regional asset and must remain that way.”
Other WRAL assets include the Jet Park Hamilton Airport Hotel which reopened in August last year as well the commercial and industrial development, Titanium Park. In the last six months, WRAL has purchased other airport infrastructure including hangars plus buildings belonging to the flight school which closed during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Morgan said extending the designation timeframe was not an option. Planning rules meant WRAL would be required to show “substantial progress and effort” which would require significant investment without a supporting business case.
“The detailed technical review is clear. An extended runway is not necessary to our future and it’s good to have that clarity.”