Minister of Defence Ron Mark has signed a certificate exempting the activity of engine testing at Whenuapai Airbase from the Resource Management Act 1991.
The Act gives the Minister of Defence the power to exempt activities for the purposes of national security. The certificate will mean the recent Environment Court ruling in favour of Neil Construction will not affect engine testing at Whenuapai and this will ensure all aircraft operations can continue to be conducted safely.
“Make no mistake this is a last resort,” says Ron Mark. “This power should only be used when absolutely necessary and the advice I have received is this is the case.
“Undertaking engine testing and pre-flight tests is an integral part of the maintenance and operation of aircraft at Whenuapai and therefore is necessary for reasons of national security.
“The aircraft concerned are based at Whenuapai and maintained there. If they are defective you cannot fly them to another base to repair and test. This situation is dangerous and I will not put aircrew or public safety at risk.
“Over the past few weeks the Defence Force have looked at other solutions including moving the area of engine testing to other practical locations, but have found they would breach noise restrictions no matter where on Base it moves to.
“If this wasn’t signed we would not have been able to use Whenuapai to conduct aircraft operations. The only other option I have is to close the base and I cannot magic up a new base overnight.
“While I accept the ruling made by the Environment Court I have instructed Defence to provide me with advice on whether NZDF’s powers, or the legislation regarding Defence locations should be changed. If they think more must be done to recognise Defence requirements in planning documents I’m more than happy to have that conversation with Cabinet and the Opposition.
“This situation, and the other ones we are faced with around the country, is exactly why we are conducting a First Principles Review of the Defence Estate Footprint. We need to decide on, regenerate and protect our estate so that the Defence Force can continue to serve our nation effectively.
“In the meantime the team at Defence will continue to seek changes under the Auckland Unitary Plan and I hope they are successful.
“I make no apology for issuing this certificate and advise anyone who is thinking of purchasing a home near Whenuapai, that you are moving into an area where a military airbase has operated since World War II. There will continue to be noise generated by military aircraft and you need to accept that.