Wellington International Airport has withdrawn its application for consent to extend its runway and plans to reapply early next year.

The firm’s proposal to extend the runway by 355 metres, at a cost previously estimated at $330 million, has been with the Environment Court since 2016.

Today the company said a further delay in the Civil Aviation Authority’s review of the project’s proposed Runway End Safety Areas – RESAs – meant the company won’t be able to meet a May adjournment deadline set by the Environment Court.

“The CAA has recently advised Wellington Airport that an updated modelling tool for RESA configuration is emerging internationally and that it should consider applying that methodology to its RESA proposal. This need to update the RESA proposal will therefore delay the process,” the company said in a statement.

The airport, 66 percent-owned by utilities investor Infratil, first mooted the extension in 2012 as part of a long-term plan to make the airport suitable for long-haul flights from Asia and the US.

In 2013 the company sought approval from Civil Aviation for the extension, including the proposed safety areas. That was approved but then challenged by the Airline Pilots’ Association which went to the Supreme Court to have CAA’s decision reviewed. That decision, in December 2017, required CAA to review the way it applied the rules on runway safety areas.

“This has been a difficult decision to make, but the right one because it provides the airport, airline customers and decision-makers with clarity and certainty,” airport chief executive Steve Sanderson said.

“It is critical to get this vital safety feature right and we only have one opportunity to do so.”

Infratil considers its Wellington airport stake one of its core cash-generating assets. It accounted for about 20 percent of the group’s portfolio, making it the third-largest investment after Trustpower and Canberra Data Centres

The company has just completed a $300 million, five-year investment programme, including development of new parking facilities and a Rydges Hotel.

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