Residents fear displacement from airport widening

Residents fear displacement from airport widening

An Air New Zealand aircraft on the runway across the road from the orange social housing unit at 48 Calabar Road. PHOTO: LOUIS DAVIS

Social housing residents in Miramar are not happy after finding out they could be displaced for a wider airport runway in 2020.

Wellington Airport wants to acquire nine social housing units on Calabar Road, which are home to 30 residents.

The airport’s Masterplan for 2030, published in 2010, displays a diagram where Calabar Road is ‘realigned’ on top of two existing social housing units owned by the council.

Azeb Ghebremiskel, resident of 48 Calabar Road, was “not happy” about the possibility of having to move.

However, she felt it would be “ok” to move so long as the location was nearby. Her concern was whether her children would be close enough to Miramar school.

Ghebremiskel’s brother Issac also lives around the corner and helps out with the kids.

Linda Shamoon, resident of 50 Calabar Road, originally moved into the unit with her family for a “bigger and better space”. Her family has lived there for 22 years. Shamoon is afraid of the impact leaving could have on her eight-month-old twins Mary and Charbel.

Shamoon’s elderly cousin Nisan could not speak English. He didn’t understand what exactly was happening.

Kirubel Yigezu, resident of 48 Calabar Road, asked, “What can I do?  I have no choice.”

Many of the social housing residents do not speak English as a first language. Many have moved to the area with family and fear being split up if they are relocated.

Senior communications and engagement advisor of city housing Graham Budd said the Wellington City Council had been approached by the airport, but no decision had been made.

“If the decision was approved by council, and the airport board, then we would look to move these tenants to alternative accommodation within our portfolio. They would remain as tenants.”

When asked whether tenants would be moved close by, Budd refused to comment.

When asked the likelihood of a decision, Budd refused to comment.

Budd said the council had informed tenants it had been approached about acquisition by the airport. The council would “absolutely” take into consideration perspectives from tenants while dealing with any negotiations.

“The needs of our tenants is one of our top priorities.”

Airport head planner Mike Brown has been reported as saying there is no fixed timeline for the plans. However, the Masterplan clearly dates the changes as happening in 2020.

Brown has said the current Rongotai site is extremely small for an airport which accommodates 6 million annual passengers – a number that is increasing.

Brown was contacted for a comment on the plan’s progression but did not respond.

Wellington Airport views the runway development as essential to accommodating for an increasing number of travellers.

Proposed benefits of the airport’s plans include: ‘time savings, cheaper travel, greater frequency and options for flights, incremental tourism growth, more efficient business travel, growth in international students, and business and migrant attraction’.

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Article by Louis Davis

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