The government is allocating $1.2 million to extend the runway at Wairoa Airport. This initiative is part of a $3.7 million funding package for Wairoa, aiming to enhance access during natural disasters. The town experienced significant flooding in February 2023, isolating it as roads and access points were closed due to storm damage.
Mayor Craig Little expressed that the extension had been a long-standing plan, highlighted by the recent cyclone’s impact. The existing short runway limited relief efforts, relying on helicopters, as larger planes couldn’t land. “Having the ability to land one big plane would have been much cheaper for the recovery,” Little stated.
Blair O’Keeffe, the chair of the Regional Recovery Agency’s oversight board, mentioned that the funding would also boost employment opportunities in the region. It would accommodate builders and recovery workers contributing to the town’s reconstruction.
Little further pointed out that the extended runway would allow bigger planes and enhance business and medical emergency services. It will enable direct medical flights, reducing transit times and possibly saving lives.
Despite feeling like “the forgotten cousins” of Hawke’s Bay, Wairoa’s deputy mayor, Denise Eaglesome-Karekare, expressed gratitude for the government’s support, acknowledging that the town’s small ratepayer base couldn’t afford the cyclone repairs alone. The government’s commitment symbolises acknowledgment and support for Wairoa’s needs.