Looks like the Manawatu – on the other side of the northern Tararuas – will miss out on the economic fillip that would have come from having the country’s only Air Force base.
Civilian air operators will be disappointed, too. There will not be any scheduled civil air services at Whenuapai.
The Cabinet has confirmed the retention of Whenuapai as an active Air Force base, reversing the Clark Gang’s intention to consolidate the Air Force’s operations at Ohakea in the Manawatu.
The Cabinet has also approved a three-year $60 million essential work programme on the base to make it fully operational again. The runways and hardstanding areas will be rebuilt and a programme of workshop reconstruction and planning for new fuel storage will be put in place.
The Minister’s media statements says:
“Whenuapai suffered a decade of neglect under Labour,” Dr Mapp said. “This work is a long-term investment which will future-proof the base for several decades. Contractors in the region will welcome the work.”
The decision to upgrade Whenuapai also reflects the Government’s commitment to improving the country’s infrastructure, and gells with elements of its Jobs and Growth plan, such as the recent announcement of $484 million to fast-track several roading, schooling and housing projects.
“Investing in quality infrastructure creates jobs, helps take the sharp edges off the current recession and prepares the economy for future growth once conditions improve.
“About a thousand people work at Whenuapai. This means their jobs are safe, and maintains the Air Force’s high visibility in the Auckland region.”
Mapp said having two operational Air Force bases was preferable to one congested location. There’s some sense in that. An enemy will have to wipe out two bases, not one, to bring us to our knees.
And as Mapp points out, it does made sense for the Air Force’s maritime capabilities (the Orions and Seasprite helicopters) to stay close to the Navy’s Devonport base.
Anyway, it was National Party policy that Whenuapai would be used for Defence purposes.
And so another promise is delivered.