The footprint of Auckland Airport has now spread citywide and planes are flying lower and slower over historic housing, much of which is poorly equipped to limit the intrusion of aircraft noise.

Slower is not necessarily better, as the airport would have us believe, in fact, it increases the length of exposure to the noise.

With planes taking off to the east, this is particularly so, and has proved disastrous for some. In once quiet areas in particular, many residents have found the noise intolerable and have been forced to move.

To its credit, Auckland Airport has invested substantially in numerous additional flight paths or tracks in an attempt to spread the burden of noise. Nevertheless, there are unsupportable noise issues in many areas of the city.


Aircraft noise has many well-established and scientifically quantified detrimental health effects. At the top of the list are cardiovascular disease and depression.

Total air traffic movements at Auckland Airport have risen from 13,362 in March 2012 to 15,226 in March 2017, taking total growth since March 2012 to 13.95 per cent. Auckland Airport's annual report shows that international movements alone have increased 16.7 per cent since 2010.

There is a boom in travel and Auckland Airport's chief executive, Adrian Littlewood, attributes that to the new lightweight planes now rolling off production lines, along with the current low price of aviation fuel.

While this is true in part, there is also another explanation for this so-called travel bonanza: new navigational systems that use airspace much more efficiently, enabling a significant increase in aircraft movements.

Whereas previously planes would follow ground-based navigation, with NextGen - or Performance Based Navigation as it's sometimes called - the navigational systems are on board. Think of it as a GPS for aircraft. Instead of following a clunky point-to-point route dictated by signals emitted from the ground, planes can track their own precise path.

The technology is so accurate that planes could cross over properties in precisely the same spot day after day, scaring the proverbial out of birds in the trees.

The technology is great for airlines because it means big savings in fuel and time efficiencies because of smoother and shorter flight paths.

Fans of the technology argue the shorter flight times also reduce noise and CO2 emissions but the flipside is that the increased airspace efficiencies means airports, especially the large and overcapacity ones, can now squeeze even more from their existing infrastructure by significantly increasing the number of planes they can land.


Industry experts call it "capital cost avoidance" because the technology and its related efficiencies boost capacity, thereby negating or delaying the need to spend money on new runways and other infrastructure. The increased capacity enables the industry to explore growth markets and (almost) everyone's a winner.

The economic benefits that this expansion provides for the aviation, travel and hospitality industries are huge and unquestionable. It also gives an immediate boost to our local economy, demonstrated daily in glowing terms by the media.

In 2014 the Civil Aviation Authority commissioned a report on the implementation of NextGen in New Zealand. At that stage Queenstown had switched to the new system, increasing flights by about 23 per cent.

While noting there were likely other factors, including tourism demand, the report concluded NextGen had made a large contribution to the increase.

That report noted: "Changing the flight path to pass over a more densely populated area will mean that more people are negatively affected and could cause a net loss - most likely in high density areas such as Auckland and Wellington." How right they were.

The implementation of NextGen is causing havoc worldwide. In the United States legal action is being pursued against the Federal Aviation Administration on several fronts.

Politicians there have come out in support of their constituents, not so here, with the exception of Phil Goff who, as MP for Mt Roskill, lobbied then Minister of Transport, Gerry Brownlee.

While it is agreed NextGen is a major technological advance, it appears to have been developed with a complete disregard for those on the ground. The airspace is shared by everyone, however it now appears to be the sole domain of the airline industry, and those beneath are deemed expendable in the face of profit.

Various political spokespersons, including the Green Party, have remained resolutely deaf to approaches from the public on this matter.

There was no airspace congestion in Auckland prior to the adoption of NextGen, and unfortunately the effects of changing patterns of noise were either poorly understood or ignored in its implementation since 2012.

In response to the glowing reports about the "Golden Age of Travel" this problem of noise for those on the ground has been a serious omission in the commentary. It is good for the aviation, tourism and hospitality industries but in Auckland many residents are paying a big price.

They now bear the brunt of new and unreasonable exposure to aircraft noise.

• Lorraine Clark is a member of The Plane Truth Inc, a society that advocates for anyone negatively affected by changes in operations at Auckland Airport. She lives in Morningside.