A group trying to save the future of Kāpiti Coast Airport has been accused of peddling false information, which they've rejected.
Kāpiti Coast Airport chief executive Chris Simpson was critical about a Save Kāpiti Airport (SKA) statement about the airport and its operations. SKA launched a campaign and fundraiser this week, with it stating the airport had a strong future and is critical infrastructure for the Wellington region.
"The future of Kāpiti Coast Airport is currently at risk as new owners NZPropCo consider its future," SKA spokesman Tim Costley said.
"Annually, the airport is worth around $4.3m to the Kāpiti economy, and that's without tapping into its future potential, which we're exploring.
"Our commercial operators are reporting a strong comeback from Covid-19, with Air Chathams previously saying their Kāpiti to Auckland flights are their best performing route."
However Simpson said the airport is far from thriving.
"The reality is that the Kāpiti community doesn't use it a great deal, and there is no indication that aircraft movement numbers are increasing now, and they are unlikely to in the future.
"Despite an increase in Kāpiti's population over the past few years, aircraft movement numbers at Kāpiti Coast Airport are declining year on year.
"For example, there were approximately 53,000 aircraft movements in 2007, 25,000 in 2018, 19,000 in 2019 and in 2020 there were 16,000.
"The reality is Kāpiti people are just not using the airport, the old adage of use it or lose it comes to mind.
"Currently the airport loses approximately $1 million a year."
As a privately owned asset the airport receives no local or central government subsidy with Simpson saying its outgoings far outweigh the revenue received in rent and landing fees.
"Essentially we are subsidising the airport for the few Kāpiti residents who use the commercial flights offered by two operators and for aero club members."
Costley fired back saying it appeared "the owners keep forgetting about the large commercial area of the airport land which they own.
"This brings in large incomes by leasing land and buildings to companies like Mitre 10 Mega, New World as well as a number of other retailers and other companies.
"They are trying to work some kind of clever maths where they ignore those large incomes and only assess the income of the runway."
SKA also believes the airport is crucial for medical and emergency services in the event of a major natural disaster.
"The airport is used by medical and emergency services, saving lives," Costley said.
"It will be crucial in the event of a major natural disaster, is used by multiple government departments and agencies and is hugely important to the local business community with its direct link to our largest city.
"It is an important part of the aviation network as the staging point for pilots between the North and South Islands."
But Simpson rebutted the statement.
"Let's put to bed right here, right now, it's not an emergency lifeline.
"Under the Civil Defence Emergency Act, Kāpiti Coast Airport is not listed as a lifeline utility."
He said according to the 2002 Civil Defence Emergency Management Act smaller airports such as those in the Bay of Islands, Blenheim, Hokitika, Invercargill, Wanganui, Westport, Whakatane, and Whangarei along with others, are listed as lifeline utilities, however Kāpiti is not listed as one.
Simpson also said, "The Auditor General's 2005 review of the 1995 sale of the airport said there should be no obligation on any new owner of the aerodrome to keep it operational if it wasn't financially viable.
"State-owned businesses that were not commercially viable should be disposed of on the open market.
"Paraparaumu Aerodrome was not considered a commercially viable operation in public ownership.
"Accordingly, in April 1993, the National Government directed that it should be sold.
"The fact is this is a small quaint airfield in the wrong location, that was sold by a Government in 1993 because it was uneconomic, and is rapidly becoming surrounded by houses and residents who regularly make noise complaints."
Costley countered, "Hospitals aren't listed as lifeline utilities but we all know we'll need them in a crisis".
"Fire fighters, police, defence...lots of things are not included as a lifeline utility, but they will be at the forefront of any response."
He cited the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management (MCDEM) response plan  which said the airport, in the event of a major earthquake in the Wellington region, would be a main hub hub for helicopter operations, and a Wellington Region Emergency Management report  said the airport would be needed for logistical operations.
Simpson noted a letter from Minister for Emergency Management Kiritapu Allan who said two former ministers of defence had said the airport would be a useful asset to have in a Wellington earthquake but it wasn't essential for a response.
And that Wellington Earthquake National Initial Response Plan didn't rely on the airport being available because it maybe affected a quake and was in a tsunami inundation zone, but if it was operational it would be used for helicopter operations only.