Calls for an investigation into significant risks for public health and safety in the event of Kāpiti Coast Airport closing have reached Minister of Health Andrew Little, following concerns voiced by a Wellington Hospital Intensive
Dr Alex Psirides recently told Stuff that closing the airport in Paraparaumu would have significant clinical risk for time-critical conditions when Wellington was inaccessible because of poor weather or maintenance, leaving the lower North Island or upper South Island with no access to tertiary care hospitals and the nearest practical alternatives at least 130 kilometres away.
The airport is currently under threat of closure by its current private owners – a large Auckland property development company who have so far declined to provide the community with concrete future plans for the asset. Save Kāpiti Airport, a grassroots community group, is appealing to the Government to step in, saying the airport is a vital medical lifeline.
Tim Costley, Save Kāpiti Airport spokesperson, says Kāpiti is an important resource for aeromedical flights to Wellington Hospital, and is used for refuelling helicopters, as well as being an alternative landing site on the frequent occasions when weather prevents the use of Rongotai Airport by fixed-wing aeromedical aircraft.
“We’re asking the Health Minister to listen to the concerns being raised by medical experts, and recognise the important role the airport plays in saving people’s lives. We understand that patients such as babies and young children fly more often on fixed wing aeroplanes, and our airport plays a critical role in connecting them with the tertiary level care provided at Wellington Hospital,” says Tim Costley.
In their letter to the Minister, Save Kāpiti Airport also highlights the physical distance between alternative airports and Wellington Hospital. “If Kāpiti Coast Airport is lost, the only other paved runway within 100 kilometres of Wellington will be Hood Aerodrome at Masterton, 80 kilometres from the capital, and requiring a long land journey over the Remutaka Hill road. The nearest other practical alternatives would be Ohakea and Palmerston North Airport, 130km away from Wellington. “When time counts every kilometre makes a difference. Kāpiti Coast Airport is an important resource for the community, for Wellington disaster relief, and for aeromedical services,” says Tim Costley.
Save Kāpiti Airport is working to sustain and preserve the airport, alongside other community stakeholders and the Kāpiti Coast District Council. It is advocating an alternative future for the airport, where unneeded land could be developed while retaining the core airport and runway.
Kāpiti Coast District Council’s recently released Long Term Plan includes a key decision to explore taking a role in the airport, including investigating how various scenarios, such as a lease or partnership, could potentially work for the district. Consultation with the community and airport owners over any viable options will be undertaken, the council says.