Auckland Airport faces the challenge of keeping more than 20 million passengers a year moving through one of the biggest building sites in the country.
As it scrambles to keep up with unprecedented expansion in aviation, it needs to build ''The Airport of the Future'' for the additional 20 million passengers forecast to pass through it during the next 20 years.
It's been likened to ''making your bed while standing on it'' - operating an airport for 55,000 passengers a day while hundreds of workers are rebuilding it.
Auckland is the gateway for more than 80 per cent of the 3.8 million overseas visitors and the bigger number of Kiwis who come into the country each year.
The tourism surge of the past five years has meant more airlines are flying here and more visitors wanting to fly domestically. In turn, the increase in the number of planes has meant more destination and price options for New Zealanders to fly overseas, which they're doing in record numbers.
The airport, and others in the tourism sector, has been caught out by the visitor influx which exceeded forecasts, requiring an accelerated building programme.
In the 10 years to 2027 the company will spend more than $5 billion on key projects and billions more in the following years.
The ''infrastructure deficit'' has been a long-running theme for the airport since it opened for operations in November 1965.
Within months of the ribbon being cut at what was a dual international and domestic terminal, it was quickly congested and overcrowded with passenger numbers running four years ahead of forecasts. It spurred what turned out to be a long and frustrating path to building a dedicated international terminal that opened in 1977 - eight years behind schedule.
Auckland Airport' is 22.4 per cent owned by Auckland Council, the rest is owned by institutions and a relatively high number of small shareholders who have enjoyed healthy dividends and share price growth as travel has boomed.
It's got a market capitalisation of just on $10 billion and has plenty of capacity to borrow heavily but long term passengers will pay for the Airport of the Future.
New Zealand's front door
Andre Lovatt oversees the big build for the company.
He's the general manager of development and delivery and says over the next 20 years the airport's contribution to GDP will rise from $3.5b to $5.5b.
''We see Auckland airport as a hub for New Zealanders travelling to the world. We are very conscious of the fact that the airport of the future is New Zealand's front door to the world and the obligation that it implies on us is very real.''
Lovatt has experience in managing major infrastructure projects across the Asia Pacific region, including chairing Regenerate Christchurch, an agency charged with revitalising the red zone following the earthquakes.
At the airport, there are 228 projects of varying scale on its books, which passengers pay for through the charges collected by airlines.
Charging for aeronautical assets such as runways and terminals is overseen - rather than regulated - by the Commerce Commission which found the airport risked overcharging in the latest round of levies.
The airport, which last year made $301 million in aeronautical revenue, backed down on charging by $33m over the next three years following political pressure and agitation from airlines.
Their umbrella group, the Board of Airline Representatives, says it supports the airport's major projects – but wants action quickly.
''The airport build is a huge infrastructure project for Auckland. In an already stretched construction sector, there is concern at how this may affect the timing and cost of some of the airport's key projects,'' said the board's executive director Justin Tighe-Umbers.
The airport says because of the cut to what it can charge, some smaller projects will be delayed. It too acknowledges the tight labour supply but is committed to eight anchor projects.
About 1500 workers are involved in building jobs this year and this number will grow to about 2200 workers in 2022.
The eight anchor projects
1: The second or northern runway
This was originally consented in 2002, work was paused about a decade ago but the airport and airlines say it will be needed by the end of next decade to cater for more traffic and provide greater resilience if the existing runway is put out of action for any reason. While opponents are worried about the greater noise footprint, consent is in its final stages and work could start early next decade for completion in 2028.
The $2b cost of the 3km runway is included in the $5b being spent in the present 10-year period.
Parts of the plan face appeal from the New Zealand Transport Agency, Auckland Transport, Te Kawerau Iwi Tribal Authority and Makaurau Marae Maori Trust, Housing New Zealand and the International Climate-Safe Travel Institute.
2: Northern airfield stands and taxiways
Planes need to park away from valuable gate space and there will be six new remote stands built and a new taxiway to link the existing runway and the new one. Lovatt says if there's nowhere to park planes won't come here. With stormwater work, the cost will run to ''several hundred'' millions of dollar.
3: A new cargo terminal
The existing cargo terminal is old and the airport needs to reclaim area where it sits for other development. The new cargo terminal near the second runway will have both landside and airside connections to improve efficiency and the airport is working with operators to determine how big it needs to be. Overseas airport cargo hubs are multi-level and are highly mechanised.
4: New international arrivals area
This is just to the northwest of the international terminal. The existing arrivals area is showing its age and the new one, with a new Ministry of Primary Industries processing areaand a baggage belt extension, will cover an area of 30,000sqm. It is the same size twin of the international departures terminal project - which after a long build has been widely praised. The new arrivals area is also on what is virtually a ''green field'' site, meaning less disruption than that experienced during the departures project, says Lovatt. ''We're learning a lesson from the departures project that we want to be able to build an extension without having to force people through an area that is under construction - people just don't like that.'' Civil works will start from 2020-onwards and into the 2030s its envisaged the terminal will arc its way towards the second runway and the recently completed Pier B can be mirrored with gates facing towards the new runway
5: New integrated domestic jet terminal
After years of delays and protracted negotiations with airlines, agreement is near on the final shape of the project and should be known around the middle of the year. This new 80,000sqm terminal will be on the southeastern end of the international one bringing an end to the inconvenient walk or bus ride between the two. It creates a single front door whether travelling internationally or domestically. Lovatt says it ''will be impossible to compare it with the existing domestic experience'' and it shortens minimum domestic-international connection times which is important for airlines. But there's a wait - work's planned for 2022-2027.
6: Yet more life is squeezed from existing domestic terminal
With understatement the 54-year-old building is said not to have a ''long term future'' in the master plan but it continues to plug a gap shifting more than 10 million passengers a year. It's an easy target for critics and is undergoing yet another makeover over two years - asbestos removal, better food options, more room for security screening, better dwell areas, new bathrooms, new airline lounges and possibly an airport-owned premium lounge. ''There's an acute recognition that we have to do better here,'' Lovatt says.
7: New carpark and public concourse
A 3500-bay multi-storey car park will be connected to the international terminal through a large public concourse. There will be a pick up and drop off area on the northern side of the carpark.
8: New northern road network
The airport is allowing for light rail, reserving corridors and provision for a terminus near the integrated terminal but the number of car trips to and from the airport is expected to increase from 90,000 a day now to more than 127,000 per day in 2044. Road works have improved what could be a horrendous drive to the airport and more major road network changes start this year to widen George Bolt Memorial Drive and build a new road towards the terminal. Lovatt warns there will be road cones and disruption.
''What I want to see us do is be very realistic with people - you can't do the amount of work we're doing in an operational environment without those kind of things.''