Auckland International Airport - opening of new facilities

  • Helen Clark
Prime Minister

I have come to celebrate two happy events today : the fortieth birthday of Auckland International Airport at Mangere and the official opening of the second level of the international passenger pier.

The opening of the Auckland International Airport on 29 January 1966 was a huge occasion. The Governor General, Sir Bernard Fergusson and Prime Minister Keith Holyoake were here, along with other ministers, local government leaders, many dignitaries, and over 200,000 members of the public.

I came with my family the following day, and can still remember the excitement of seeing the huge runway from the viewing deck, and the planes coming and going. My father, who is 83 years old, still has slides of the event, if the Airport wants copies for its archives !

The new Airport at Mangere was a huge step up from what had been available at Whenuapai. It represented a new era for domestic and international travel and freight.

The opening caught the public imagination because of the importance of linking our small and geographically isolated country with the wider world.

So much has happened at Auckland International Airport since then.

When it opened in 1966, only six international passenger carriers operated to New Zealand;

·our own airline, Air New Zealand,
·British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC),
·Pan American (Pan Am),
·Canadian Pacific, and

Four of those either no longer exist under those names, or don’t fly here, and the profile of our air links has changed radically.

The largely Anglo-American air links of 40 years ago have been vastly supplemented by air links to Asia, Latin America, the Pacific, and the Gulf.

Auckland Airport now offers us a vastly expanded window on the world.

Along with that, international passenger numbers into Auckland are up hugely from 200,000 in 1966, to close to 6.5 million per annum now.

The airport has become the second busiest in Australasia. Seventy per cent of our international visitors arrive here.

In terms of handling international freight by value, Auckland Airport ranks second only to Ports of Auckland in New Zealand, despatching twenty per cent of our exports by value, and processing thirteen per cent of our imports.

The airport has become a huge commercial hub, providing a base not only for travel and trade-related businesses, but for retail as well.

With more than 10,000 people working here, the airport itself has the population of a small city.

Auckland International Airport is of great importance to our economy. It is important to all of us that it continues to meet world standards as it presently does. The history of the airport has been one of continual growth and development to meet rising demand, expectations, and services – and that will be the way of the future.

Today’s total passenger numbers of eleven million are projected to rise to thirty million by 2050.

Next year the international terminal will be thirty years old – but it has already greatly expanded and adapted from what was opened in 1977.

When the international terminal was originally designed, there was to have been an extra floor on the passenger pier, but budget constraints at the time meant that it wasn’t built – until now.

That has meant that departing passengers from 1977 have mixed with arriving and transit passengers in the pier and gate lounges before boarding their aircraft. Many other airports around the world have had similar design.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) requires that international passengers are screened at their point of departure, and that there is no possibility of mixing with other passengers not subject to that screening at either their departure or arrival airport.

New Zealand’s Civil Aviation Rules also require that arriving and departing passengers be kept separate. Auckland International Airport Limited (AIAL) was granted an exemption to this Rule requirement in 1993. AIAL was given this exemption based on the assessment of risk at the time and the knowledge that other states were screening passengers arriving at Auckland at the point of departure.

This situation has been kept under continual review. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), in a programme co-funded with AIAL, carried out assessments of screening activities at some international airports with direct links to Auckland as part of that ongoing review.

Following 11 September 2001, CAA considered that the circumstances under which the exemption was granted had changed. Following consultation with AIAL, a timeframe was agreed to which allowed for planning, design, and construction for the separation of arriving passengers from those in transit and departing to take place while the terminal remained in use.

The terminal upgrade will ensure that the airport now applies best international practice for aviation security by ensuring that arriving and departing passengers are not able to mix. AIAL will be compliant with both ICAO and New Zealand Civil Aviation Rule requirements.

The government enjoys a very close and good working relationship with Auckland Airport.

Here at the airport, NZ Inc is on show – with government agencies and industry working closely together to facilitate trade and travel.

We’ve had to work together to boost passenger processing capacity. Only eighteen months ago, the government announced funding for 96 more Customs officers, seventeen more MAF staff, and two new X-ray machines to help meet demand – and the airport helped by ensuring adequate space was available.

Our close partnership will be ongoing as we strive to ensure that Auckland Airport remains a world class tourism and trade hub playing a major role in our economy.

It is my pleasure today to open officially the second level of the international passenger pier.