There's disagreement between many parties over a new airport in Paengaroa to service the wider Bay of Plenty region. But the project has taken a big step forward with the commitment of Ngāi Te Rangi iwi.

Chief Executive Paora Stanley says the investment would be steep - nearly $1 billion - but believes the region needs to start thinking big about its future.

"This city is just on the move. And we are not moving with it with a lot of our infrastructure."

Mr Stanley says Iwi now have the financial capability to discuss these types of projects but wants local government to join the conversation.


"When you drive through the city, when you look at the urban sprawl in the Mount itself, you know this airport has a finite period of time to exist where it sits," he says.

Western Bay Mayor Garry Webber is a staunch supporter of smart growth, and believes the airport will need to shift away from the city in the future.

"If you had an alternative road and rail loop that came down through the airport land, and then went through the right sort of curves into the Port, and car traffic went on an overpass over the top - those are sort of options I think we should be looking at."

Mayor Webber says many councillors look only towards the next election, when what is needed is discussion about growth and expansion many decades into the future.

"It's not about picking up the airport and going to a sub-regional one to service Whakatane, Rotorua and Tauranga. It's whether there is a more effective use of that land to give us the corridor security that we need for the future," he says.

But Tauranga City Council Mayor Greg Brownless says the proposal isn't feasible, given the past failure in Rotorua.

"I would have thought an international airport in Rotorua would have already attracted people from Whakatane and Tauranga - and that just wasn't enough. For us, I think our airport will always be there to feed the likes of Auckland," he says.

Mr Stanley pointed to a feasibility study by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council from 2006, which said an airport for the entire Bay of Plenty wasn't viable.

But that same study also recommended another should be commissioned within a decade.

"The environment in 2005 and 2006, when the data was collected, is very different to what it is now," Mr Stanley says. "The population has changed. We were moving into a global financial crisis at that time. A whole host of things have changed since then."

The Bay of Plenty Regional Council declined to answer questions about another study, and had no comment to make on the subject of an international airport.

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