New Zealand’s Wellington Airport has signed a non-binding agreement with a Chinese construction giant to help build its controversial NZ$300m runway extension.
Yesterday airport officials signed a memorandum of understanding in Beijing with China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) and the airline China Express.
It outlines how the parties will work on the capital’s 355-m runway extension, which the airport wants in order to attract bigger airliners but which New Zealand’s pilots say is too short to be safe.
The agreement also deals with developing the area with commercial buildings such as hotels, news site Stuff reported.
Today airport officials, who are in Beijing on a trade mission, are also expected to sign an MOU with Beijing Shougang International Travel to develop Wellington as a Chinese tourist destination.
However, the runway extension is currently being held up in New Zealand’s courts.
While the airport and local councils want to extend the runway so it can take big planes from North America and Asia to boost business and tourism, the New Zealand Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) have challenged the plans, saying the proposed length of runway overshoot is too short to guarantee safety.
ALPA wants the maximum 240m overshoot stipulated in law, while the Civil Aviation Authority said the legal minimum of 90m would do. In the latest decision, New Zealand’s Court of Appeal sided with the pilots.
Wellington City Council chief executive Kevin Lavery and Wellington mayor Justin Lester are also in China on the trade mission.
Mayor Lester told the Chinese delegation that Wellington was ranked the most liveable city in the world but that it had a big problem: "Our front door to the world is closed because we don’t have a truly international airport," he said.
CSCEC, meanwhile, is often referred to as the largest constructional firm in the world, active in 46 countries.
It started working in New Zealand in 2015 and currently has two New Zealand developments: a "super high-rise" apartment block in Auckland and an hotel, Stuff reports.
Image: The city wants to extend Wellington’s runway so it can take bigger jets (Youtube)