Plans for a regional airport are likely to be put on hold after a new report suggested it would lose as much as $400 million during the first 20 years of operations.
The report by consultant URS Australia has concluded that based on present land value and construction costs a new airport sited at either Paengaroa or at the back of Pyes Pa would not be financially feasible _ though the location at the top of Pyes Pa Rd would have a better chance of working.
Environment Bay of Plenty has been investigating a regional airport for more than four years as part of the SmartGrowth strategy and has commissioned two major studies, costing more than $300,000.
The plan, which involved closing the smaller existing airports, was fiercely opposed by Rotorua, which wants to extend the runway of its own airport and introduce transtasman flights.
And Tauranga City Airport board late last year produced its own 20-year business plan to grow its operations, aimed at handling nearly 400,000 air passengers a year from a present 155,000.
The stage two feasibility study by the Australian consultant is to be presented to Environment BOP's strategic policy committee meeting on Tuesday.
And the councillors will vote on a recommendation that no further action be taken on planning a regional airport _ though the council will re-consider its position in 10 years or at the request of local authorities.
John Mandemaker, Environment BOP group manager strategic policy, said in his report to the committee that during the stage two study it became clear that the region's local authorities _ Tauranga, Rotorua and Whakatane _ were not enthusiastic about closing their airports in favour of developing a regional one.
Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby said the regional council needed to send out a clear message that it was not proceeding any further to give certainty to the future of the Tauranga and Rotorua airports.
"They had to do the study as part of SmartGrowth to see if it would fly _ but they have been grounded."
Mr Crosby said airports were of greater benefit to travellers when they were closer to home. " Why drive 40 to 50 minutes to Paengaroa or the top of Pyes Pa to catch a plane when there is a choice of driving to Auckland?"
John Cronin, chairman of Environment BOP, said there was a group of councillors who didn't want to put a stop to a regional airport study.
"I know Tauranga and Rotorua weren't supporting the study even though it was well in to the future. But a regional airport had been talked about for a long time and the money needed to be spent on a robust study, even if it is shelved for the time being," said Mr Cronin.
The Australian consultant evaluated two potential sites at Paengaroa and three in Pyes Pa - they had to be 400ha in size - and the purchase price of the land ranged from $41 million to $280 million.
The cost of building a regional airport was set at $366 million for Paengaroa and $397 million at Pyes Pa including extra roading and power costs.
The losses for the first 20 years of operations would range from $475 million at Paengaroa to $271 million at Pyes Pa.
But the feasibility of the airport could be re-examined every five to 10 years if the growth in population, business activities and income was faster than expected.