27 October 2022

Chatham Islands Airport Development


Downers are continuing their runway work for the Chatham Islands' Tuuta Airport.

In their latest update to the local community at the end of September they reported that 

- Our paving team came back to the Chathams on 12 September bringing project team up to full numbers.

- We started laying asphalt, as planned, from the third week of September.

- Paved area in front of terminal; in front of Air Chathams office; most of hard stand; from access gate, in

front of hangar to fuel storage area starting the apron area.

- We’ve commenced paving the runway extension.

- We continue to crush and cart aggregates from the Waitaha Quarry.

Upcoming Works

Over the next fortnight the key construction activity we will be undertaking:

- Pave the runway extension and Apron

- Carting aggregate from quarry

Planning is now underway for the development of an extended terminal for the Chatham Islands. 

The Chatham Islands Council website reports 

Chatham Islands Airport Company Limited Chair, Allan MacGibbon, presented an update on the project and the plans for the facility. This included the fact that the airport has had a 480m extension to the runway and that, at the completion of the project, the runway will be 1850 metres long, not much less than Wellington and the fifth longest in New Zealand. It will also be the only airport in the country with a full 300m runway and safety area at both ends.

The airport has also been future-proofed with the extension of the apron to cater for two code 4 jets, for example, 737 or A320 planes. Drainage has been undertaken throughout the site with water, power, and waste upgrades also completed.

The construction of the runway is now complete and the asphalt overlay is being installed. The asphalting will be completed in mid to late January, and the terminal is hoped to be completed by the end of next September.

The priority for the funding has been investing in the runway upgrade with just a small budget remaining for the terminal part of the project. The old terminal will be retained and refurbished for arrival and departures and a new FRAEMOHS design building will link to this and be entirely dedicated to security processing for outgoing passenger departures. Allan stresses this is not a completely new build but has to blend the old with the new. Retaining the link between the existing building and Hapupu was important. He also reiterated that the budget for the terminal is extremely limited.

Within the existing building, the baggage claim area will be removed and a new undercover area developed between the freight shed and terminal with interlocking gates. This follows the way most rural airports on the mainland are being developed. The operations room will remain the same. The “Koru lounge” will be retained. Some office space and storage space may be added. Remediation, carparks, and interpretation will be undertaken in the external area.

Included in his considerations for the fit-out, Allan believes acknowledgement of the people of the Island, the Tuuta family who gifted the land, and the history of aviation and its major role in the development of the Island are important.

Proposed extension for departure processing prior to boarding. View from airport runway.

The feedback from those present provided an excellent foundation, highlighting many things not currently being considered. The key points raised included:

  • the need for some form of café and food
  • themed photo walls
  • outside seating area for smoking and non-smoking
  • outside access to a toilet
  • an area for repacking bags with privacy
  • lower check-in scales so bags don’t have to be lifted so high
  • a special area for those transporting people who have passed including a comfortable area for those accompanying them
  • a drop-off area at the entry to the terminal for kaumatua so the walk is not far
  • a designated area for visitors to be dropped off ensuring the entry is not crowded while buses and bags are unloaded
  • a new wheelchair and more trolleys are needed
  • plenty of power sources and USB connections
  • working spaces, particularly when planes are delayed
  • a landline for calls back to the mainland
  • biosecurity requirements
  • a kids' corner
  • the ramps at gradients that wheelchairs can be pushed up with ease
  • business advertising boards, use of QR codes that present information in the cloud
  • facilities that are easy to maintain and keep clean.

Featuring the views of the lagoon was also highlighted. Also included is the need to recognise that the airport serves as an entry point to Pitt Island.

Those attending were asked what the Chatham Islands meant to them, sparking feedback about what it feels like to arrive back home, freedom, manaakitanga, nature, culture, the resilience of islanders, fishing, sea, land, bush, eeling, weka hunting, horse riding, and the sounds of the birds.

Making features of the Inia William Tuuta Memorial, the Millennium Basalt Stone, and the albatross also needed to be incorporated into the upgrade.

The need to consider the Crown funding and look holistically at all industries including fishing, farming, and tourism along with job creation was also raised as a requirement.

The planning will continue with further specific consultation before the concept plans are developed.

The meeting was facilitated by Jackie Gurden. Further public feedback is welcomed and can be made by contacting Jackie at jgurden@xtra.co.nz or 027 420 0491.

Existing terminal for arrivals and departures to be refurbished showing proposed extension.


  1. I hope someone has done their maths properly on the useful payload of jets landing there given they will be tankering return fuel. - Unlike landing at WLG.

    1. There is JetA1 on the Island

    2. Is the price of it the same as in AKL or WLG? Bet its not.

    3. It will be a pretty short flight so not that much tankering required. They’re often near MLW into ZQN with tankering.

  2. A 737-800 at MLW with good-medium braking action can get away with 1850m on an ISA day with no headwind credit. Furthermore, assuming landing at MLW and max ZFW (I.e some 200 pax or 20t of payload) would leave 3.6t of fuel onboard. It is roughly 400nm to WN from CI with a TAS of 420 kts and burn of 2.0t per hour it can make it back WN with finial reserve. CL will be more limited.

    1. Thought they were looking at 737-400s not 800s?

  3. Uncertain as to why you compare performance of a 737-8 to a 737-3?
    ZQN is just a little longer than 1850m.

    1. Speaking from experience, as stated the CL (classic) would be more limited, in terms of fuel vs payload on a tankering sector @ MZFW compare to the figures above for the NG. Perish the thought of flying in a -300, most are relegated to freighters these days.

    2. yes and you realise a -300 is what they will be using?, not that I dislike the aircraft, it was good to fly, however pointing out the concern as per my original post!

  4. For those not familiar with the existing terminal, the “Koru lounge” is a separate room, once used for flight planning and relaxation, equipped with armchairs - and now the only such lounge usable by anyone without fees!