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Wednesday
May092018

Thames Airfield 

A un-agendered item appeared on the information that i received about the Thames Business Association, and it is interesting:

  • The Hauraki Aero Club proposes a new hangar development zone be established on the airfield with power, water and waste services.

Analysis

The Proposed District Plan includes an 'Airfield Zone' on the Thames Airfield. This zone provides for hangars to be constructed on the airfield. Council has also designated Thames Airfield as an 'airfield', providing for all airfield activities. Provision of utility services to the airfield can be addressed when there is demand for these services. Staff are currently exploring options with regard to enabling development opportunities at the Thames airfield. No hangar development zone is required as the Airfield Zone rules in the Proposed District Plan provide for hangars. This area is covered within the existing Kopu to Thames structure plan.

The investigations into the suitability of the airfield for future development is progressing with the flood investigations complete and the geotechnical investigations underway (in conjunction with investigations for a pool site).

Recommendation

Direct staff to work with the Hauraki Aero Club and other interested parties on development options at the Thames airfield.

Well yes, there are all manner of "interested parties" keen on the development at the airfield.

The only problem is that they all want the Council (that is - you and me) to foot the substantial bill for bringing services to the hangar area. This together with the demand for drainage works to enable 365 day a year operations would involve millions of dollars - make no mistake.

It is imperative that whoever is given devlopment rights is required to cover these costs - there is no justification for them to fall on rate-payers who will derive no benefit whatsoever from any development that takes place.

This argument has gone on for some years, and the Council came under pressure from one particular developer who had the ear of the previous Mayor and several councillors. His proposal involved housing (or apartments) and looked most attractive until you costed in the Council supplied services.

The trouble is that history gets lost amongst current enthusiasms - those of both elected members and staff.

 

 


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Reader Comments (11)

Bill
I believe I am the only person who has put their own money into a new hangar at the Thames Airfield in the last 10 years (the Aeroclubs’ new hangar was from insurance proceeds). I mostly agree that it should be up to the developer to provide the services but I also believe the Council has some responsibility to “enable” or at least not make it difficult for those services to be provided. Water and sewer (high pressure I understand) are located on the other side of Ngati Maru Highway and there is a not insignificant cost in bringing them to the airfield boundary. Similarly power needs to be done in a “big” chunk so only a large development could justify the cost. Certainly a one off hangar would be cost prohibitive for power but other options are available such as a generator and to a lesser degree solar with battery storage.
My own experience in 2007 was frustrating in the extreme with the Thames Community Board making it as difficult as possible. I firstly wanted to do a hangar with integral dwelling which was knocked back so settled on a simple aircraft hangar which had to comply with a colour specified by the Board – hence the dark green that it ended up. Then Board member Peter Wood privately supported my application but did a 180 at the meeting and opposed it!......so much for facilitating development…..it was a hanger on an airfield…..hardly an outrageous concept. Certainly not much in the way of development could happen in those days with the then Community Boards’ attitude and I doubt much has changed. I know aircraft owners are considered “rich pricks” who should be made to grovel before small town local politicians (most trailer boats you see going up the coast cost more than an light aircraft) but guess what….they are actually the ones putting up their own money and development tends to attract more development which many argue is a good thing.
So while I don’t think those wanting to do developments at the airfield should get a handout, a hand up in terms of getting vital infrastructure to the site (which can be recovered by way of lease payments – which are at full commercial rates) and getting out of the way of those willing to do something could be something useful that the Council/CB should think about.

May 9, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Mickleson

The Thames airfield desperately needs to be developed. It is a disgrace that such valuable land be used as a place to grow hay [they are making hay at the airfield today!].
With regards to the waste water: I would suggest that they dig a trench directly to the waste water pumping station. This would be approximately 350 m long and there would be no need to close Ngati Maru highway to put the sewer pipe under the road.
It would be so simple and would take less than 3 days to get the connection to the airfield.
Town water supply already exists at Thames airfield as does power.
Tauranga airport has excellent examples of accommodation over hangers. Such buildings eliminate the need for additional flood protection.
I know there are many aviators in Auckland [based at Ardmore] under pressure from encroaching housing who would dearly love to come to Thames and build such hangers with accommodation.
Mercury Bay airfield cannot build aircraft hangers fast enough for people wanting a place to store their planes.
Thames airfield and Thames people are missing out by not fast forwarding the supply of services to the airfield. It will not cost millions but if the Council does decide to move on this matter it will certainly bring many hundreds of thousands of dollars and much employment to the area.
Currently the helicopter group, Skyworks based at the airfield, is spending large sums of money in creating a safe work environment at the airfield and as part of that have put in a new entrance way for the fuel tanker and large concrete area with a safety fence around their operating area.
Also I believe that the aforementioned hanger in the Mickleson post has now been sold and one of the Auckland based war birds will be soon arriving!
Go the TCDC, fast track the services for the airfield and open up the area for development for there are many people looking to invest in hangers/[accommodation], aircraft maintenance businesses and flying schools.
Recently I noticed 3 planes land and around about 12 people strolled over to the cafe across the road- tidy the place up and this could happen more often.
Lastly, I can remember when the airfield was bustling with activity, with Tatco being based there. Most mornings at daybreak, 6 or 7 Fletcher's would head out to work from the Thames airfield, and there were gliders in the air most weekends and people learning to fly.
Lets make it a vibrant place once again!

May 9, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBiggles

Wow! With this kind of enthusiasm, it should take no time to get this thing up and running. I simply ask, why in the face of such logic amply displayed since 2007 should a developer with deep enough pockets not have emerged willing to take the place off the hands of the Council at a reasonable price, or lease arrangement. It should not be that difficult, and thereby Council avoids taking the risk that it can ill afford. It is simply not practicable for you to expect even a 'hand-up' in these circumstances. Just formulate your plans and business case, sell your ideas to others, and get on with it just like any other developer. What is it that has held you guys back for so long. The current Mayor has said that she would welcome a proposal - what more do you want?
I simply say, don't expect the Council to fund your great ideas - that is not its role.

May 9, 2018 | Registered CommenterBill Barclay

As you well know Bill: before you can cook an omelette, you first must crack an egg.
TCDC is best placed to bring the waste water pipes to the airfield boundary.
It will not be an expensive contract if they lay a .200 mm welded plastic pipe directly from the current pump house to the East-West runway, a very simple task for any contractor and should be no more then a $5-600,000 job.
Look back through some of your own blogs over the years. The task would be no more costly than say the Great Leach walks, or the magnificent sports field complex in Whitianga, the cycle way to Paeroa [the airfield would become an added attraction en route], or the new gymnasium in Thames.
The one difference to any of those is that the airfield would generate employment opportunities, bring in new 'blood' to Thames, give Council another revenue flow from rates and the list goes on.
All any developer has ever asked is for water, power and wastewater connections be provided, and they will do the rest!
There is not another piece of Council owned land in the District that begs development as does the airfield--as Jacinda said: "lets do it!"

May 10, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBiggles

I am right on your wing Biggles!
Ginger

May 10, 2018 | Registered CommenterBill Barclay

With the state of knowledge we had 10-20 years ago, new development at the Thames airport, a new sub regional swimming pool, or upgrading the Rhodes Park grandstand might all have been excellent worthy projects. Unfortunately, everything has changed now that we have robust science about the very real and very serious threat of sea level rise to Thames Township and coast.

So, before we even begin to consider these projects we must answer a much more fundamental question - does Thames have a viable future as a functioning town? Because what is the point of proceeding willy nilly with projects like these before we know whether it is practicable and affordable to protect the township from the rising sea? What is the point of spending (and potentially wasting) millions on a new swimming pool or expanded airfield if the answer to those questions is that Thames’ foreshore, and parts, maybe all of its CBD will be drowned in coming decades?

TCDC has itself accepted that we need to answer these questions because it has adopted the projections for sea level rise in the Ministry for the Environment’s coastal hazard guidance to local authorities. These projections – prepared for the previous National-led government require consideration of a sealevel rise of 1.88 m for all major new infrastructure, greenfield subdivision and major projects. The 1.88 m line means that any new major development west of Pollen Street and the State Highway out to Kopu (approximately) would have to meet this new test.
I discuss some of the implications of the new Govt guidance and the threats to Thames in coming decades here –
https://teggtalk.wordpress.com/2018/05/02/coastal-hazards-submission-on-tcdc-long-term-plan/

Fortunately, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel – Hawkes Bay has led the way with how to go about proper coastal planning and community engagement which takes account of coastal hazard threats for the next 100 years. With shared funding from the Regional Council we can get this planning done in 2-3 years. We can afford to wait 2-3 years for this research, risk assessment and planning to be done - see here
https://teggtalk.wordpress.com/2018/03/15/coastal-flooding-and-erosion-there-is-a-plan/

What we must avoid at all costs is a repeat of the poor decision-making made by the Council in previous years before the new guidance was published –
https://www.newsroom.co.nz/2017/12/11/67374/drowning-dreams-billions-at-stake-as-govt-mulls-sea-level-rules

May 10, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDenis Tegg

Well there is the answer!!
Thank you Denis TEGG.
Lets abandoned Thames now- no more development in the future.
Best we start now with a planned shut down of Thames and all coastal areas.
Hey what about a new name for Thames?
I nominate ATLANTIS.
How does that sound to you Denis??

May 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBiggles

Government guidance based on the best available science and coastal planning information which TCDC has accepted requires consideration of a sealevel rise of 1.88 m . You can read the full report here
http://www.mfe.govt.nz/sites/default/files/media/Climate%20Change/coastal-hazards-guide-final.pdf
and a summary here
http://www.mfe.govt.nz/sites/default/files/media/Climate%20Change/coastal-hazards-summary.pdf

We don't know yet whether parts of Thames may have to be abandoned or whether they can be protected. That's the point. We have to do the research, risk assessment and ask what the community wants to do – then do a proper cost benefit analysis – like they have already done in the Hawke's Bay. But one thing's for sure – it would be crazy to spend millions of dollars on new development until we know all the answers.

May 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDenis Tegg

Denis is correct,, and that is precisely why TCDC should not succumb to exhortations to invest in the airfield, or any other similar new infrastructure in the Thames area subject to the 1.88m predicted sea-level rise - conservative to say the least.
If private interests wish to take the risk entirely on their own shoulders - so be it, and good luck to them. The airfield is already water-logged for a good proportion of most years, just like Rhodes Park. I would have thought that drainage issues even today would have been a major concern for anyone aiming to open it up for year round commercial operations, but that is the nature of 'commercial risk' - not that of a prudent Council.

May 11, 2018 | Registered CommenterBill Barclay

I dispute that the airfield is waterlogged.
In fact I have never seen ponding on the airfield despite the fact it is relatively flat land.
The proposed hangers with accommodation on top would be on slightly mounded ground.
There is more than adequate drainage around the perimeter of the airfield plus two storm water cess pits at the runway intersection.
With regards to yours and Denis comments, obviously neither of you have been to The Netherlands-- where I have seen land protected from the Atlantic ocean, metres below sea level!
Bring it on I say-we cannot afford to leave such valuable land vacant on a whim it may one day flood.

May 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBiggle

Whim? - I don't think so!
And as for water-logging, my knowledge is limited to the number of NOTAMS that were reported in past submissions by users as evidence of long periods of non, or restricted runway use as the reason as to why TCDC needed to do much more to achieve improvements in drainage, along with access to the wastewater system of course. This plea by users goes back over a very long period, let me assure you.

May 29, 2018 | Registered CommenterBill Barclay

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