Council to fence off airfield landing strip

Waikato District Council’s plans to fence the landing strip at the Raglan Aerodrome due to safety concerns have some in the community up in arms.

A majority of councillors voted to install a 1.2m fence to create a trail around the airfield to the beach, which would keep people off the aerodrome’s operational area.

Taking to the Raglan Notice Board, many locals are asking for the council to move the airfield, and some are saying the land should be returned to local iwi.

The aerodrome was originally part of 88ha of land owned by local iwi (a smaller part of the airfield is still owned by Ngāti Mahanga), but it was claimed by the Government in 1941 for an emergency landing airfield under special public works provisions provided for defence purposes.

Local iwi are currently working with the Crown to settle treaty claims that includes returning a portion of the aerodrome land.

Waikato District Council general manager service delivery Roger MacCulloch says the council has been working with the Raglan Community Board, local iwi and key stakeholders to clarify the safety issues associated with the airfield and obtain specialist advice on how to rectify these issues. 

“As operators of the airfield, we need to do all we can to keep all users of the space safe.”

Raglan Community Board chair Gabrielle Parson says the board’s job is to ensure the best possible outcome for the community.

“If it (the fence) goes ahead it won’t be stopping access to the beach for people. Basically, at the moment it’s just one big paddock and the operational area (for planes) will be much smaller than that.”

Gabrielle says the community board identified in the beginning that the council wasn’t following a great process.

“Our job is to make sure the Council processes are working properly, and it is transparent, and we have the right information, that there has been an opportunity to look at the draft (safety report) and feed into that. We are just trying to make sure that the community gets the opportunity to input, that we have the information to hand. That’s where we have done our work and we need to continue to do that.”

The council commissioned an independent report after the Civil Aviation Authority directed all aerodrome operators to review safety amid concerns raised when two planes collided mid-air in Masterton in 2019, killing two people. 

The report recommended a number of actions to reduce the risk of an accident happening, including reviewing the operational area and reducing the runway width to about 40 metres and fencing the perimeter of the revised operational area of the airfield.

Waikato District Council will need to temporarily suspend operations at Raglan airfield for a short period of time to implement safety recommendations.

The exact length of time that this will take is not currently known and the current Covid-19 situation in Raglan and the wider Waikato area contributes to this uncertainty.

But the plan is to start this work before Christmas and council will advise the community closer to the time.

Look out for the follow up story in the next edition of the Raglan Chronicle.

By Janine Jackson