09 July 2010

Dargaville - Looking for an Air Service?

Dargaville is a bit of the beaten track but it has, at different times, had a scheduled air service to Auckland, Mid North Air and NZ Air Charter being two of the operators. Dargaville is in my sights for future posts like the current series on Tokoroa. And Dargaville still has visions of developing its airfield with possibility of attracting a service.

In November 2008 the Kaipara Lifestyler reported, “Dargaville airfield runway is 1000 metres long and surprisingly only 97 metres shorter than Whangarei's Onerahi airport. But now the club has made submissions to Kaipara District Council to consider lengthening the runway by 250 metres to total 1250 metres.” Murray Foster, the Aero Club instructor, said, "There is plenty of room to do that. We have a big clear approach from the east and if we cut down some trees on the west end it would be completely clear too. We would widen the present 8-metre runway to 15 metres to cater for bigger aircraft and the existing limestone would be tar sealed. Heavy top dressing planes use it during winter and the ground easily holds up." He points out that convenience for locals, as well as potential for tourist trade to this part of Kaipara, would be huge. "We could have Air New Zealand 20 seaters land here with a load of tourists to visit local attractions and stay a few days. The present long bus trip would be gone."

In July the following year the prospect of exploration and possible development of oil and gas resources in the Northland Basin off the west coast again prompted talk of the airfield development. Again Murray Foster was quoted by the Kaipara Lifestyler. "The oil people asked about the possible establishment of an oil base here at the airfield, because offshore rigs would need to be serviced by helicopters. They were also looking at rail and road systems and other infrastructure in the area. We have plenty of runway at a kilometre in length, which is the same as Whangarei, but we would need this widened from the current eight metres to between 10 and 13 metres. It would need to strengthened, and sealed and could be extended by another 150 metres if required. There would have to be taxiways as well and we would probably be looking at a sum in excess of $1,000,000. Commercial aviation instrument systems would also be required if development went ahead. But our first task is the airport construction itself," said Murray. Kaipara Lifestyler contacted the regional operator, Salt Air, after it started its regular flights between Kerikeri and Auckland suggesting Dargaville could become part of this regular service, but the company said that without upgraded aviation systems this was not an option they could consider.”

Earlier this month airfield development was in the local paper again with a high level meeting scheduled for next month which will include MP John Carter, Northern Regional Council chair, Mark Farnsworth and other officials. “The upgrading of the airfield will be of huge benefit for the local economy on the west coast corridor and the next step is to make a formal application for development funding from the Northern Regional Transport Committee,” said the Kaipara District Council’s development facilitator, Chris Donahue.

One wonders whether Dargaville will soon be on an operator’s radar for a future air service.

Meanwhile, if anyone has any information on services to Dargaville I would love to hear from them by emailing westland831@gmail.com. Cheers, Steve.


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