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Hamilton prepared to take lead rile if catastrophe closes Auckland Airport

29 August 2013 - Hamilton International Airport has released an independent report showing that, in the event of a catastrophic closure of Auckland International Airport, there are major economic benefits that would ensue for New Zealand if Hamilton takes a lead role to keep international flights on schedule.

Hamilton Airport chose to release the report following two recent incidents that highlighted the disruption both natural and man-made incidents can cause at the nation’s airports – those being the 30 July Auckland Airport runway closure and the 16 August Wellington earthquake.

The independent report was compiled by leading Australasian corporate finance and strategic advisory firm, Cranleigh, and was commissioned by Hamilton Airport following a briefing to the Ministry of Transport last year.

The report confirms that by taking a leading role in a nation-wide plan, and through investment in its main runway, Hamilton Airport can potentially save New Zealand millions in direct and indirect costs by being the primary airport to handle selective international flights.

Andrew Bayly, Director of Cranleigh, says, “The study looked at what would be the ideal solution for ‘New Zealand Inc’ if there were ever an event that closed Auckland International Airport.  We’re not talking about an event that closes a runway for a few hours – this is about a major event, such as an earthquake, tsunami, volcanic eruption or aircraft incident.

“The ideal failover solution for New Zealand has to possess two key features:  the airport designated by the Government as the lead airport must have infrastructure to handle a high volume of wide- body aircraft each day; and the solution must minimise economic disruption to the country.

“Our analysis shows the best solution for the country is a co-ordinated approach that involves several airports working together, with Hamilton being the primary airport for wide-body international flights,” Mr Bayly explained.

The Cranleigh report highlights a number of key benefits to the country if Hamilton Airport takes the lead role in a failover event. 

Hamilton Airport’s location is its first advantage.  It is close to key destinations, as well as the highest concentrations of New Zealand’s population, yet far enough away from Auckland to be protected from most catastrophes affecting that part of the country. Additionally, the study found that if all Auckland-bound international visitors were diverted to Hamilton, 84% could be transported to their preferred final destination within two hours.  This percentage drops to between 3-7% if other airports are designated as the lead failover airport. Also, the neighbouring Mystery Creek Events Centre is a designated civil defence emergency site with sufficient space to temporarily process high volumes of passengers and their associated baggage, customs, aviation and biosecurity requirements.

As Hamilton Airport already owns sufficient land for the extension of its runway to cater for wide-body jets, the costs to do so is minimal in comparison to the economic damage to New Zealand associated with even a short term closure of Auckland Airport.

“The Cranleigh Report estimates $53 million of economic value to the country would be at risk each day the Auckland Airport is closed if no sufficient failover plan is in place.

“As a next step, we would like to see the Government put together a risk analysis to better quantify this risk. That piece of work is well beyond the resources of a regional airport,” explained Hamilton International Airport General Manager-Commercial, George Clark.

Mr Clark said the airport is keen to take the primary role to handle selected wide body jets in an Auckland International Airport failover situation. To do so, an extension to the Hamilton runway would be required.

“Nearly two years ago, the designation and district plan change for the extension of Hamilton Airport’s runway to 3000 metres was approved, subject now to only one of three original appeals which is being worked through at present. The financial investment required to make that extension, install appropriate navigation aids and increase the aircraft apron size has been assessed at $35 million. One of the options modelled is for the Government to fund the $35 million, which would be repaid over time from aeronautical income derived from the extended runway. This is similar in concept to the successful funding model that the Government has adopted for the ultra-fast broadband rollout,” explained Mr Clark.

“Hamilton Airport is not looking to its five shareholding councils to make the investment.” Mr Clark said Hamilton Airport recently met with Ministry of Transport officials to present the Cranleigh report.  “The report is now being considered by the Ministry of Transport.  At this point, we’re interested in working with the Government to find the ideal solution for New Zealand in case such a failover event occurs.

“After reviewing Cranleigh’s research, we are confident that designating Hamilton Airport as the lead failover airport in the event of a catastrophe in Auckland, as part of a wider national plan, is the best operational and economic solution for New Zealand,” said Mr Clark.


Media contact:

George Clark      

General Manager – Commercial    

Hamilton International Airport      

027 575 9720