Airports of the future

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New Zealand airports have changed a lot in the past 100 years. And they are likely to change a lot more in the future.

Many airports are re-developing their terminals to future-proof them for what lies ahead. This includes advances in energy efficiency, transport, engineering, runway renewal, security and screening technology, robotics and new types of aircraft.

Nelson, Tauranga, Hawke’s Bay, Invercargill and New Plymouth Airports are among a number of regional airports upgrading their terminals.

Fly through and have a look at how these terminals are evolving.

Nelson Airport

Tauranga Airport

Hawke's Bay Airport fly through

New Plymouth Airport fly through

Invercargill Airport jet project slide show


Most airports - large, regional and small - produce 30 year masterplans to guide their long-term sustainable development.

Find out about theplans for our three largest airports below...

Christchurch Airport 2040

Wellington Airport 2040

Auckland Airport of the Future

Supporting small airports

NZ Airports wants to see a national funding system in place that ensures sustainable, safe minimum standards and facilities for small New Zealand airports. This kind of assistance for small airports is common in other countries around the world. Rural communities can be cut off from vital health services if their airports close. See this article.

For these ‘non-commercial’ small airports, the funding responsibility should be a shared one between central and local government.  Small airports and their communities can take responsibility for operational costs, but find the occasional big lumps of capital cost and maintenance hard to fund.

There is an essential unfairness in the government’s current dealings with small airports. Five of them (Taupō, Whakatāne, Whanganui, Whangarei and Westport) are co-owned by the Crown in Joint Venture arrangements. This provides those five with a valuable degree of financial support. Other comparable small airports have no such support and rely on subsidies from their council owners and small ratepayer bases.

Two fundamental components of a better system of support for small airports are:

  1. Recognise in legislation a class of small airports that (because of their scale and circumstances) cannot realistically operate on a commercial basis.
  2. Establish a national funding system capable of sustaining core airport infrastructure and safety standards for small airports, with funding powers for the Ministers of Transport and Finance set in statute.

NZ Airports is advocating for this kind of system established for New Zealand’s small airports.

Download our small airports report: Linking the long white cloud.

Sustainability and airports – emissions, environment and community

Airports are part of communities. They contribute to their communities in social and economic ways.  They also have a range of environmental impacts that they must manage with, and for, their communities. These includes noise, stormwater, climate change, transport, light and all the other effects that come with operating an airport in urban and rural environments, often near harbours and coastlines.

Their role in civil defence emergencies has also been recognised. Twenty-one New Zealand Airports are classified as ‘lifeline utilities’ in the Civil Defence and Emergency Act.

Many airports work with local iwi, schools and community groups to support their communities.

Climate change and aviation emissions

Airports directly control only a small proportion of aviation emissions, but they can support and enable the efforts of aircraft operators and other parties on the airfield.

They also manage and influence non-aviation emissions in airport terminals and on the wider airport campus.

New Zealand’s major airports at Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch are active in achieving emission reductions on and off their aerodromes, and through planning and research.

Our three largest airports – Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington – are signatories to the Climate Leaders Coalition [hyperlink to signatories page]. They are each committed to measuring, reporting and reducing their emissions, as well as working with their suppliers to reduce their emissions.

Christchurch Airport Community and Environment

Auckland Airport Corporate Responsibility

Wellington Airport Social Responsibility

Other regional airports are also addressing sustainability in their operations in various ways.

For example click here for videos and information on Queenstown Airport’s low carbon pavement project.

Aviation emissions reduction plan

While transport makes up a significant part of New Zealand’s energy sector emissions, domestic aviation is not a large contributor to energy sector emissions. Domestic aviation accounts for 1.1 percent of New Zealand’s total emissions.

The aviation sector, including airports, airlines and associated services are actively managing their responses to climate change and international and domestic aviation emissions. These are managed under various agreements including the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) 2010 Assembly Resolution A37-19 and the 2013 Assembly Resolution A38-18. The New Zealand Government supports resolutions passed at ICAO to develop a framework for a global market-based measure that would cap international aviation emissions from 2020.

The long-term challenge to manage emissions as demand grows is acknowledged by the sector. Removing carbon requires a major technology breakthrough and subsequent investment (e.g. biofuel, electric aircraft).

The NZ government’s report on Aviation’s Emissions Reduction Plan is here.