Massive changes at Rotorua's Airport will be in place by the end of year, including more on-site businesses, increased security and flasher terminals.

The $2.5 million first stage of the revamp is part of $18.4m worth of building consents that were issued in Rotorua last month.

Among the other new builds given the green light are an $8.2m farm fertiliser service centre at Reporoa and a $3.5m two-storey hotel.

Rotorua Airport chief executive Mark Gibb said the developments were a necessity to improve Rotorua's first impression for visitors and to keep pace with passenger growth.

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Rotorua Airport chief executive Mark Gibb is leading the Rotorua Airport facelift. Photo / Stephen Parker
Rotorua Airport chief executive Mark Gibb is leading the Rotorua Airport facelift. Photo / Stephen Parker

Local passengers were up 6 per cent on the same time last year, which is trending higher than Air New Zealand's national growth of 4 per cent, Gibb said.

"We are running at a 10-year record high in terms of passenger movements. We had 253,000 passengers in the past year, which is the highest since 2008."

He said the big price drops in Air New Zealand's regional airfares at the end of February had already seen a significant increase in the number of passengers - noticeable last weekend alone when there were only 10 empty car parks at one point.

Rotorua Airport chief executive Mark Gibb is leading the Rotorua Airport facelift. Photo / Stephen Parker
Rotorua Airport chief executive Mark Gibb is leading the Rotorua Airport facelift. Photo / Stephen Parker

Gibb said preparation work for the start of the airport's revamp started in January and included removing asbestos and earthquake strengthening the older parts of the building.

Work was now under way to construct the new arrivals terminal, which will be in the area that was formerly used as the departure and arrival lounge for the direct flights to Sydney, which stopped in 2015.

Gibb said the first stage would include the new arrivals hall and full repaint of the outside of the building.

He said there would be a new food and beverage operator that would be announced in about two weeks.

"We can't say too much yet but it's someone locals will identify well with ... We are looking to provide a far broader offering in terms of menu and beverages from early in the mornings and into the evenings."

An artist's impression of Rotorua Airport's new-look departure terminal. Photo / Supplied
An artist's impression of Rotorua Airport's new-look departure terminal. Photo / Supplied

He said stage two would include the new food outlets and businesses and the construction of a "piazza" and outdoor courtyard area.

The total value of the second stage was still being negotiated but he said the overall cost of the project would be near the original estimates of $4.4m.

The original airport terminal, built in the early 1960s, would be demolished - with the asbestos carefully removed - and a glass walkway would be installed between the departure area and the new arrivals hall.

An artist's impression of the Rotorua Airport entrance. Photo / Supplied
An artist's impression of the Rotorua Airport entrance. Photo / Supplied

Rotorua Airport is 100 per cent owned by the council and operates as a Council Controlled Organisation (CCO) with an independent board.

Gibbs said the revamp was being funded by cash reserves, including money given annually by the Rotorua Lakes Council, and loans.

"Ratepayers are not having to tip extra money into it ... A lot of this is things we are required to do to grow."

He said among the changes would be increased security systems which were now a requirement since the Christchurch mosque shootings.

An artist's impression of the airport's exterior. Photo / Supplied
An artist's impression of the airport's exterior. Photo / Supplied

Gibb said the revamp was needed and people would be "blown away" with the finished product.

"It's poles apart from what is there at the present time. But given we are working with existing buildings, we are getting a lot for our spend."

He said other cities, including Nelson and Invercargill, were spending upwards of $30m to get new airports up to today's standards.

"First impressions are important when you get off a plane and come into a building."

Other plans in future stages include "tidying up" the carpark layout to allow better flow, landscaping and developing a business lounge.

Meanwhile, Rotorua Lakes Council's commercial building consent figures for March show there has also been building approved for Ballance Agri-Nutrients Ltd for a bulk storage warehouse at Reporoa.

Regional distribution manager Tony Bielawski said the new distribution centre would be built on land opposite the existing building, on the corner of State Highway 5 and Butcher Rd. It has not yet been decided what would happen to the old site.

The $8.2m project would store fertiliser and allow for better technology and "design smarts" to improve the company's environmental footprint as well as allowing improved storage for customers.

It aims to open at the end of January.

A two-storey hotel to be built by Grenland Ltd and valued at $3.5m was also among the commercial projects given consent last month. The directors of the company were unavailable for comment.

Building consents issued in March
* 17 new dwelling consents valued at $8.477m
* 133 residential consents valued at $10.3m
* 15 commercial consents valued at $18.4m