Local iwi oppose proposed sites for new Whangārei airport

By Tumamao Harawira

Plans for the development of a new airport in Whāngārei have met stiff opposition.

Community groups in the area have slammed plans to move the airport from Onerahi to a new site expected to cost $150m.

Local iwi met last night to discuss the options put up by Whangārei District Council, and say they are unhappy with the choices.

Ruatangata West is one of three sites identified by the Whangārei District Council as a viable option for a new airport. The only problem? It's right on the doorstep of Ngāti Kahu o Torongare, Te Parawhau, and Te Orewai.

Hori Kīngi, kaumātua at Ngāraratunua Marae, says iwi are unhappy that the area is being considered a viable option for a new regional airport.

"I am not in support of establishing an airport at Ruatangata, Matarau and Pūrua."

"If the waste was to get into our river, what will become of our kai basket? We are wanting to research the impacts on the taiao."

The consultation process closes this month, with a final decision to be made in June.

Whangārei District Council CEO Simon Weston, who attended the meeting with local iwi, says attempts have been made to engage with local iwi.

"We have worked with a mana whenua advisory group during the early stages of this project to help identify sites that we believe would be okay."

He says the current site in Onerahi is already difficult to operate.

"The Onerahi Airport has got the shortest runway that Air NZ operates from. If future aircraft require a longer runway, then that's problematic at that location."