Attention-craving politicians dangle expensive toys in front of jaded electors in the hope of future name recognition when the voting papers turn up. Auckland mayoral wannabe John Tamihere is a text-book case with his un-costed, double-decker harbour bridge nightmare.
Our latest political Santa is retiring Air New Zealand boss and widely rumoured new Upper Harbour National Party candidate Christopher Luxon. Unveiling his conservative credentials, he wants to turn the clock back half a century and fly commercial planes out of the Whenuapai air force base again.
"It's ridiculous," he says, "that someone who lives in, say, Whangaparaoa has to drive more than 60km to get to Auckland airport and allow two hours each way to get there at peak times when there is a perfectly good airport much closer." It showed "why our nation has a productivity issue".
A commercial add-on to the air force base would cost $200 million, said Luxon.
Of course a much cheaper solution for the travel woes of the Whangaparaoa "frequent traveller" would be to move to a house closer to the existing airport. In Ihumātao perhaps, or Hillsborough. This would not only improve his "productivity", but also free up more time with the family.
Instead, Luxon wants Aucklanders to duplicate, at great expense, the existing, well-planned airport at Mangere we part-own, to pander to the life-style choice of someone who has decided to live on a remote peninsula on the fringes of the city, far from his work place.
It's like the rich parents who drag their kids back and forth across the city to distant schools, bleating about other motorists doing the same and clogging the roads in the process. If kids went to their local school, Auckland's traffic congestion would be greatly alleviated at no expense.
Back in the middle of last century, far-sighted Auckland politicians decided to build a new airport way out in the wop wops alongside the Manukau Harbour, surrounding it with noise buffer zones and industrial parks to prevent future housing intruding into noisy flight paths and causing conflict. The move from Whenuapai was in 1965.
It wasn't until January 2003, during the post-Christmas "silly season" when journalists are desperately seeking a headline, that Waitakere City Mayor Bob Harvey suddenly popped up with plans to reopen a second commercial airport at Whenuapai. North Shore Mayor George Wood was on side. The two cities set up a company between them for $400,000. Harvey said runway repairs would cost $5 million, while converting an existing building for a terminal would cost less than $1m.
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This despite the year before an air force report calculating $29 million for urgent runway repairs. It seems the asphalt runway surface tended to break up when the old hexagonal concrete block base beneath moved "a little" on the swampy ground.
Local Helensville MP John Key, now, ironically, on the board of Air New Zealand and Luxon's "boss", quickly rubbished the idea as a white elephant, putting the cost of upgrading the runway at $300 million.
Harvey had been worried by official plans to centralise the air force in Ohakea, and the potential loss to the Waitakere economy of 1600 jobs and $235 million a year. The battle waged on for years, the Auckland International Airport company joining in at one stage with a $19,000 research grant to the opponents.
The dreams were finally crushed in late 2008, when Key became Prime Minister, and quickly confirmed his election pledge to reverse any plans for closing the airbase. In 2011, the air force began a $24 million upgrade of the main runway and related works.
Jumping forward to July this year, Defence Minister Ron Mark announced a sweeping review of the total "run-down and outdated" Defence property estate. He highlighted Whenuapai and how encroaching urban development around the base was threatening the future of operations there. Which is not surprising given the tens of thousands of residents who have moved into the area since 1965.
The reality is, thanks to the growth of Auckland, the future is bleak for any sort of airport at Whenuapai. Trying to revive a commercial airport will be like the Eden Park noise battle on steroids.