Rotorua Airport to retain Air Traffic Control Tower

Air traffic control should remain at the Rotorua Airport, a Civil Aviation Authority review has found.

In its review, the authority agreed with a Rotorua Regional Airport Limited assessment which showed air traffic control services should remain at the airport.

Last year New Zealand's air navigation service provider Airways decided to withdraw services from seven airports, including Rotorua, resulting in the loss of up to 38 jobs.

The news was met with disappointment by Rotorua Airport chief executive Mark Gibb and local leaders.

The aeronautical study prepared for the airport company found an air traffic control service at Rotorua Airport needed to be retained to ensure appropriate safety standards were being met, a media release from the authority said.

After independently reviewing the aeronautical study and its assessment, the CAA determined retaining an air traffic control service was necessary to maintain safety standards at Rotorua Airport, which has a mix of commercial, tourism, and recreational activity.

Aeronautical services manager Sean Rogers said the authority's determination came after a comprehensive review of the airport-commissioned study and had included consideration of the underlying methods which had been used in the airport's assessment.

"Aeronautical studies are an important process to assess aviation risk and determine how those risks are best managed to maximise the safety of the travelling public," Rogers said.

"The CAA's role is to ensure appropriate safety standards are being met by airport operators which enable safe aviation and manage the risks involved with operating a busy mixed-use airfield.

"Our teams thoroughly assessed the aeronautical study presented by Rotorua Airport and our determination was consistent with the study, which recommended air traffic services remain."

The CAA's determination comes after a thorough consultation process with interested parties, which included airline and flight companies, airport staff, air traffic control staff and other airspace users.

Rotorua Airport was pleased by the Civil Aviation Authority's decision.

Rotorua Airport chief executive Mark Gibb said the decision brought a welcome end to a 17-month process with Airways.

Following Airways' announcement in April 2020, Rotorua Airport undertook a comprehensive aeronautical study to fully understand the requirements for air traffic control services in Rotorua, submitting it for consideration by the Civil Aviation Authority.

Gibb said he and the board were concerned the loss of air traffic control could have significant safety risks and directly impact the size and type of aircraft that could fly into Rotorua.

"We were also concerned, from the outset, the significant flow-on effects for Rotorua businesses and the entire district's economic recovery from the impacts of Covid-19.

"These concerns have guided our persistence in advocating for the retention of the service pending the aeronautical study."

Gibb said the Civil Aviation Authority's decision validated Rotorua Airport's initial view that ATC is an essential service which supports the safe and efficient operation of the airport.

"We are extremely happy with the decision and look forward to working alongside Airways to ensure service continuity at Rotorua Airport."

Gibb said the board welcomed ongoing discussion about the safe operation of Rotorua Airport, including early consultation on any potential decisions which may impact its operations.

Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said in a statement: "The CAA's determination is excellent news and reinforces the reason we fought so hard for the retention of air traffic control services at our airport".

"A fully-functioning airport is critical to ensure the safety of our air space and to support our district's economy and economic recovery. Withdrawal of these services would compromise Rotorua's relevance as a place of choice for people to visit, live, work and study. These services also support air tourism operations, our civil defence response when needed, and air ambulance services so they are absolutely vital for our community.

"Well done to all those involved in the concerted efforts that were made to ensure an appropriate level of service at our airport into the future."


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