02 March 2020

Tokoroa Airport - What future and a look at its past

Tokoroa is having a bit of a debate about their airport... but once upon a time it had regular air services to Auckland...

Tokoroa Airfield users Linda Williams, Bruce Simpson and David Chalmers are calling on the district council to work more closely with them to determine the best future for the airfield. Questions are being asked about the future of the Tokoroa Airfield as South Waikato rates continue to rise. Rates, which have risen in the district by up to 20 per cent since 2018, fund the airfield by up to 67 per cent each year. The South Waikato District Council has budgeted $719,906 for external operating costs and $331,960 of external capital costs in its 2018-2028 Long Term Plan. That's despite few local ratepayers actually using it. It's now also been revealed that the council spent almost $56,000 on maintenance at the airfield in 2018-19 while only generating an income of $18,947. So far in the 2019-20 financial year,  $11,691 has been spent on maintenance with an income of $10,142. South Waikato Model Aero Club (SWMAC) member Bruce Simpson, who has long advocated for the airfield to be opened up for wider use, said it's high time more locals benefited from an asset they're paying for. "Tokoroa is a low socioeconomic town, not many people can afford aviation, so we need to make it more accessible to the community," he said. "Most people don't even know we have an airfield. If we want to keep it, we have to make it more diverse." Currently the airfield is also used for the likes of driver training days and a few drag race weekends a year.  But Simpson, who has previously been unsuccessful in lobbying the council to run drone flying courses at the airfield, said more events need to be held. "The thing that concerns me is that I have tried on numerous occasions to organise things here but the council stands in the way," he said. "It's very difficult because we have a top class airfield in a town that doesn't really have the population to utilise it. "It is like the council doesn't want the airfield to become a valuable community asset because they see it as a good place to throw housing or something. I don't know." Opening up parts of the airfield for residential development, although not on the council's radar, is something Auckland based user and Tokoroa and Districts Aero Club treasurer David Chalmers wasn't opposed to. "I think if parts of it were opened up for residential development, for people who are into aviation in one form or another. like hangar homes and things like that, that is probably a good thing," he said. Club secretary Linda Williams said it would however have to be done carefully to avoid people complaining about noisy activities. The property also accommodates cars, motocross, and kart clubs. "In places like Auckland's Western Springs people buy and as soon as they buy they complain about plane noise," she said. Williams said the council needs to work closer with airfield users to work out a way forward. "As an aero club there is lots of expertise and we have said we are here if they want to consult and get some advice. We are here so talk to us," she said. South Waikato District Council communications manager Kerry Fabrie said it was not uncommon for rates to fund such community assets. "Council services provide for community cohesion and social wellbeing," she said. "Rates are often used by councils to ensure these facilities are provided to communities." Fabrie said the balance between user charges and rate funding is set in the council's funding policy which is consulted on every three years. "We will be reviewing the Airfield Management Plan in the 2021/22 financial year and that will provide an opportunity for possible change," she said.

These airlines flew scheduled services into Tokoroa. a history of each of these services can be found by following the links below

James Aviation

Auckland Aero Club

Company Profile
Air North's Tokoroa air service

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