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The Environment and Future Plans:
West Auckland Airport already generates employment for many people, both at the airport and in the surrounding area with local businesses providing services to the airport and the students, tourists and 'watchers' who come to train, fly or skydive.
In future it is hoped to develop the airport into a Regional Airport serving the catchment of around 400,000 people for whom it is the nearest airport. This would generate substantial economic benefits to the area and greatly reduce the carbon footprint currently needing to drive to South Auckland through the congested Auckland city traffic for a domestic flight.
How would a Regional Airport fit into Parakai?
With the purchase of what is currently low productivity farm land, there would be ample space for the construction of a new runway and development of an environmentally sensitive airport with buffer zones of ponding areas, walkways and other public areas.
As an indication of what might be possible, Nelson Airport is superimposed on Parakai (to scale) below. Note that the existing light aircraft runway is not affected, the second runway is much further away from the towns of Parakai and Helensville, and would not require the removal of any houses.
For a full discussion of the possibilities, click on the (download .pdf): StrategicIntentions.pdf
BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT: The airport has a policy of using local businesses whenever possible and makes use of the services of these on a regular basis for Vehicles, Fuel, Electrical, Plumbing, Drainage, Earthmoving, Stormwater maintenance, Building Maintenance, Supply of Materials, Cleaning, Transport and General supplies.
The businesses operating from the Airport actively co-operate with other local tourism and accommodation businesses to promote the area for the benefit of all. Any suggestions for joint marketing or transport etc to bring more economic activity and jobs into the area are welcomed.
PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT: It is the policy of West Auckland Airport Company Ltd to take all practicable steps to reduce the environmental impact of the airport, while recognising that airports are essential parts of the transport and tourism industries.
Weed Control: The Airport has been researching and experimenting with non-chemical control of the Alligator weed that has long invaded the ditches on the Kaipara and choked the drains. Letting in controlled amounts of seawater has proven effective, and is much kinder to the Inanga and juveniles of other fish species that breed in the harbour, compared to spraying weedkiller or using diggers to clear the ditches. Further work is being done in conjunction with the Council waterways biologists and the method developed is likely to be rolled out by the Council to other properties on the Kaipara Harbour and its rivers.
Bird Control: By studying the habits of the birds and making the airport less attractive to them, its been possible to make the birds spend more time elsewhere. Skydive Auckland runs a bird scaring device on their swooping pond for the same reason... that's what causes the loud 'shotgun' type booms at regular intervals. The birds are not keen to settle if they think there are shooters in the area. With the airport's associated company, 'Aimm' Movement Monitoring service now used by nearly half the active NZ airports, the client newsletters are used to spread the suggestions for non-lethal bird control to many other airports in NZ and Australia.
Low-emission Aircraft: The Airport's flight training aircraft have been low-emission for a long time, and produce less than half the emissions of a Cessna or Piper training aircraft. Partly this is due to the lighter weight of the Tecnam aircraft used at West Auckland, but mainly because their 1990s designed Rotax engines are considerably more efficient than the 1950s designed Lycoming and Continental engines traditionally used for training. The Rotaxes also use unleaded road vehicle fuel ('MoGas') getting a similar Km/Litre to an efficient car, rather than leaded aviation fuel ('Avgas') so there is a worthwhile benefit there too. As soon as practical the airport will move to zero-emission electric training aircraft and ground vehicles, and is actively investigating these.
Regulator: As an official NZ Aerodrome, the controlling body for the Airport is the NZ Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which carries out regular inspections and whose regulations define the operational conditions.
Pilot training at West Auckland Parakai uses low-emission aircraft running on lead-free fuel, as used in motor vehicles. Skydivers are lifted by the gas turbine powered PAC750XL with a (geared) slow turning propellor, which uses low sulphur and lead free JetA1 fuel with less flights and a lower emission level per passenger than smaller skydive aircraft.
Below 2500ft the circuit for approach to, and departure from the airport, is specified by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Aircraft are required to circuit at 1000 ft altitude to the north, away from the towns of Parakai and Helensville.
Pilots who are flying repeated operations, such as Skydiving, Training Flights and Scenic Flights, are required by the Airport management to follow noise reduction operations whenever safe to do so, and to vary the flight path as much as possible between flights.
Above 2500ft the airspace is under control of Airways Corporation's Air Traffic Control (ATC) 'Approach Control' for Auckland International Airport. Aircraft must obtain entry clearance from ATC to climb above 2500ft, and must follow the path specified.
Until July 2012, aircraft climbing into the controlled airspace were usually instructed by Air Traffic Control to remain within a small circle centered on the airport, which resulted in the skydiving planes having to spend a lot of time climbing over the Parakai / Helensville area. This created an undesirable concentration of aircraft noise, so the Airport management requested that a larger area be approved.
A meeting was held between the 'Auckland Approach' Air Traffic Controllers, the Skydive Operators and the Airport Management, and a 'Memorandum of Understanding' was agreed stating that:
Whenever possible, ATC will approve use of all the airspace to the West of a North-South line running through the Airport, so that aircraft will usually be able to climb out by a different route each time, returning to Parakai only for the parachute drop which greatly reduces the noise impact on any one place on the ground.
All fuel, oil and aircraft waste is disposed of in accordance with environmental regulations, and recycled whenever possible.
Aircraft operating from the Airport are required to use noise reduction operations whenever possible. However, all forms of transport inevitably create noise... such as the railway that runs past the Eastern end of the Airport with trains at various times of the day and night.
It is the policy of the Airport to reduce its noise profile as much as practicable. Hence the 'Aircraft' and 'Flight Path' policies above.
If you feel that a regulation has been breached, the Airport has a Complaints Procedure in place to investigate.
Any practical suggestions for further reducing the environmental impact of the airport would be welcomed, will be considered by the Airport Safety Committee and Operator's Committee, if necessary passed to the appropriate authorities for consideration, and adopted if approved.
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