That friend was Wigram and today Ngai Tahu, the large Maori "Tribe" (im my opinion they are capitalistic property developers plain and simple, there is no "Tribe" left in Ngai Tahu management, just greed) of the South Island has forced it's closure, the last flights to leave from the Wigram runways giving a well deserved parting flypast were DC3 ZK-DAK, DC3 ZK-AMY and Harvard ZK-XSA.
Ngai Tahu, the Christchurch City Council, and past Governments of both National and Labour, in short sighted greedy decisions have permitted, nay, caused the wanton destruction of yet another historic site, a recreational facility, a business hub, and a facility which was of important, perhaps strategic value in the future.
Instead, we are to believe, Ngai Tahu will be creating a new housing estate, just what the city, indeed the country needs of course is another housing development. They have such great track records lately don't they.
And then, it was gone.
As you will no doubt be aware, barring some miracle of common sense by the government (local, national, tribal) Wigram is closing for ever from the 28th of February, come the 1st of March there will be no activity there any more, no flying, just a desolate piece of soon-to-be demolished memory (probably covered with cows until the recession's over is my bet).
There are last-ditch letter writing campaigns still underway, in the tradition of not giving up until the fat lady sings, but she's well and truely warming up the vocal chords now.
So people of Christchurch (and those from afar), this Sunday please show your support for your city airfield, for our heritage, for our armed services, for our lost and fallen in battle and show your utter indignation at it's wanton destruction at the hands of greedy Ngai Tahu property developers and short sighted councillors by attending the Open Day in your tens of thousands.
Give Wigram a send off to be proud of!
Here's the blurb from the Wigram Air Force Museum web site...
SKY HIGH AT WIGRAM
February 8th 2009
Here's one to mark in your diary. "Sky High at Wigram" is the 2009 Air Force Museum Open Day theme.
The feature of the Open Day will be extensive flying displays by the Royal New Zealand Air Force. Planning is underway for displays from the Iroquois and Sioux helicopters, the P3 Orion, C130 Hercules, Boeing 757, Classic Harvard, the Red Checkers acrobatic team, and Kiwi Blue parachute display team.
Planning is also underway for visits from the Auckland based Catalina; and Mustang, as well as a local Bird Dog, and the Southern DC3. Stay tuned for more updates!
Couple this extensive programme with static ground displays which allow you to get up close and personal with many of the aircraft and you have a fun filled day for the entire family.
When: February 8th 2008
Time: 10 am to 4 pm
Pricing: Adult $10, Child $5, Family $20
I was thinking "hmm, I wonder if they stood up for the airfield, I bet Ngai Tahu doesn't like that banner being flown from Wigram, wonder how they got away with that one", then I realised - it was to enourage votes for Steve Campbell (NZ First) in the Wigram Electorate.
Denis Hampton (see previous blogs) had mentioned to me a while back that Steve was going on the NZ First Party List but I hadn't paid attention to the party lists announcements so didn't realise he was actually the Wigram candidate, checking the election pack which arrived this morning confirmed.
Steve is number 9 on the NZ First list. Perhaps somebody with more smarts than I could suggest what percentage of the party vote NZ First would require to get Mr Campbell a seat (assuming he didn't miraculously win in Wigram, sorry Steve if you're reading, let's be honest it's not likely, but full marks for trying)?
Steve is the CEO of the NZ Flying School one of the many tenants on the historic Wigram Airfield who are being given the old heave-ho by Ngai Tahu, the owners of the airfield, so that they can demolish the years of aviation history and a working useful and in my opinion strategic airfield to make way for yet more houses, in the middle of an economic crises where it is abundantly obvious that people are simply not buying houses.
I'll also remind that Marc Alexander (National) is also standing for Wigram and worked with Steve Campbell and Denis Hampton to bring the initial protest about closing Wigram to the council and lobby for it's retainment - so this is quite a choice to make - and kinda wierd to see a National candidate and an NZ First candidate working togethor, I guess Steve wasn't on the NZ first lists at the time though.
Of course, the trouble with both of these candidates isn't that they are NZ First and National, it's that their opponent is Jim Anderton, and we all know that no matter how little actual work Jim Anderton appears to do for Wigram (and by how little, I mean, basically nothing at all) he will still get in, because he always has, and always will, until he finally retires (or perhaps more likely, dies, I suspect that's the only way Jim Anderton would only give up "his" electorate).
While I'm on the subject of Wigram, just a very brief update from Denis. After writing to the Council regarding discrepencies in the report they commissioned on Wigram's viability, the council wrote back sumarily dismissing the points raised, in thier words "As the airfield is known to be closing, it is totally appropriate to record that the previous zoning for airfield purposes has lost it's relevance.". So basically, according to the council, it was known that Ngai Tahu wanted to dispense with aviation, so the relevance as an airfield was lost, and because relevance was lost, it should be rezoned, to stop it being used as an airfield. In short, it's all recursive doublespeak.
They also note that there was a "decline from 40,000 movements to 5900" as a justification, well, perhaps do they think, just possibly, this might, maybe be remotely possible that it has something to do with it being a freaking military installation when it was doing 40,000 movements! Council's lack of logical analysis never ceases to amaze. Not to mention that Ngai Tahu were NEVER encouraging of civil aviation (or any aviation) at Wigram, because it went against their, and I'm reluctant to say this lest I sound like a closeted conspiracy theorist, their hidden agenda.
Denis urges all that can to email, or write to Gerry Brownlee regarding this, and includes the following talking points.
- In April 1997 the Minister of Lands and Ngai Tahu agreed publically that Wigram would be kept for aviation purposes.
- When Ngai Tahu gained the title to the property in June 1998 (1 year later) Ngai Tahu revised thier intentions to be that Wigram would be used for aviation for a limited time.
- In 2007 the Christchurch City Council stated that "aviation related businesses and activities have ceased, over time" at Wigram, and that if on even conducts a cursory examination of Wigram one will find that this statement is untrue, to the extent that it is nonsense.
- The present aviation businesses at Wigram will be with no choice but to move, probably far from Christchurch.
- The military specification sealed airstrip at Wigram which had potential for future domestic passenger transport use overflowing from Christchurch Airport, and emergency alternative for light aircraft, will be lost.
- The affect on the Air Force Museum will be serious in his opinion.
- A small survey of 81 people recently found that 78 of those asked wanted Wigram to remain for aviation not housing, and many were most passionate in this view.
- Interest in Wigram extends well beyond Christchurch, and in view of the thousands of Air Force personnel who served on or visited Wigram in it's historic past, this is not at all surprisng.
- A public assurance, that if National gained power, that Wigram would be kept for aviation purposes would be a vote winner.
As for what National (or any government) could do, realistically not that much, but there has been a murmor in the past that Ngai Tahu would not be completely against the idea of selling what remains of Wigram back to the Crown. And of course, being a strategic asset, it would not be a stretch to see it fall under some form of compulsory aquisition.
A few hours of happy listening (and some singing) later, I thought it might be interesting to write a quick salutory blog on the anniversary of his death I was going to put in an alarm in my calendar to remind me to do so and so I checked Wikipedia, only to find it was 11 years since the songwriter tragically died today! In his timezone of course. Funny how that happens, spooky coincidences.
A salute to you Mr Denver, very enthusiastic aviator, masterful musician and lyricist.
Denver got a bit of a bad rap over the accident which claimed his life, various accusations of alcoholism, irresponsible piloting etc were bandied about - as is unfortunately a bit common after air accidents where the pilot isn't around to defend themselves.
Admittedly, some of this was deserved, John did have a problem with alcohol, and for all intents and purposes he was medically disqualified at the time and should not have been PIC (Pilot in Command) - but in his defense, there is no evidence he ever got behind the stick with booze on his breath.
Ultimately it seems likely that Denver's downfall was in a stupid design change in the aircraft (a Rutan Long-Ez) made by the previous owner, the fuel tap was put behind the pilot, so when John ran out of gas on one tank, he had to crane himself around to reach the tap, accidentally causing a loss of control. It was quick at least.
Now there is a lesson to be learned of course. Firstly that you shouldn't go changing the designs of legendary designers like Burt Rutan without good reason, but more importantly, you should be familiar with the aircraft you fly BEFORE you need to be.
Experience is that thing you get just after you needed it.
Eagles inhabit the heavenly heights, they know neither limit nor bound.
They're the guardian angels of darkness and light, they see all and hear every sound.
My spirit will never be broken or caught for the soul is a free-flying thing.
Like an eagle that needs neither comfort nor thought to rise up on glorious wings.
I had a vision of eagles and horses high on a ridge in a race with the wind.
It appears that there may have been some "confusion" regarding the approval sought, and that official approval may not have been given in the first place, and that the reason for refusing access to the airfield at this time was not necessarily as inflexible as it appeared. An attempt to rectify the situation has been made and a tacit approval has been given to the organisation referred to for the holding of a flyin at Wigram in mid October.
On Sunday coming, the Canterbury Recreational Aircraft Club (of which I am a member) had planned to have a flyin to Wigram, permission was sought and thought to be obtained from Ngai Tahu, and it had also been discussed with airfield inhabitants who were supportive and looking forward to us all visiting etc. Today, the member of our club who was organising this received a call from Ngai Tahu revoking the permission.
In short, Jan Higgens, the current person in charge of Wigram Aerodrome Ltd was uncompromising and said that all 'non resident' Wigram aircraft were forbidden to land as of the 1st of September 2008 because "a lot of development is going on; restricting the landing areas".
The NOTAM I blogged about a few days ago merely indicated that permission needed to be sought, it is now clear that you can ask, but you won't get said permission. I guess they figured the media would attend the Canterbury Aero Club flyin last Sunday and so elected to let it proceed rather than get bad press.
I understand that yesterday the plan change became effective. No doubt this is not coincidental.
I can't embed this here for some reason, but it's fitting at this point: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSJamm327gE
As perhaps a final followup to the attempts to get some common sense drummed into the council, Denis Hampton, on behalf largely of Steve Campbell at the Chch Flying School had made a submission a little while ago to the Office of the Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman, for those who are not familiar with the term, is the independant office intended to provide oversight and investigation into the decisions of government, local and central.
The submission called on the Ombudsman to review the report which the council had based it's decision on and if they found as we believe the report to be fundamentally flawed in it's portrayal of Wigram as a dead airfield (the reasons for which this belief was held have been previously written in this blog, and were of course included in said submission) that they should recommend a course of action to the council which would see the whole process reviewed.
Today Denis received a reply from the Ombudsman's assistant to inform that the matter would not be investigated further as it appears the Ombudsman does not have the power to do so when the "full council" has made a decision, it can only investigate sub committees, individual members, officers and employees.
One wonders who can provide oversight to the full council when they make terrible uninformed decisions.
A1272/08 FROM: 31 AUG 2008 12:00 TO: 19 NOV 2008 11:00
AIP PAGE NZWG AD 2-52.1, WIGRAM OPR DATA DATED 15 FEB 07
DELETE ALL SUPPLEMENTARY DATA WITH EXCEPTION OF OPR DETAILS.
ADD NZWG AD UNAVAILABLE FOR GENERAL USE WITHOUT PRIOR APV OF OPR.
AIP WILL BE AMENDED 20 NOV 08.
Also NOTAM'd at the moment is the following, I guess they are surveying for the pending slice and dice.
A1763/08 FROM: 14 SEP 2008 19:00 TO: 19 SEP 2008 05:00
DAILY 1900 TO 0500
ENGINEERS ON FOOT AND WITH QUAD BIKE EQUIPPED WITH FLASHING
LIGHT OPR ON AD
A1811/08 FROM: 17 SEP 2008 19:00 TO: 19 SEP 2008 05:00
GRASS AREA IN FRONT OF NR 4 HANGAR AND NR 5 HANGAR CLSD DUE
Namely three points:
a) The commissioner appointed to prepare a report on the plan change (and thus the utility of Wigram) did not consult with relevant people, both because they were not specifically tasked as such - they were tasked to receive submissions drawn as a result of the public notice in the paper (the applicability of public notices in the paper in this modern age is another story, probably written by Douglas Adams), not seek them out - and because the people most affected were forbidden contractually from commenting. There were NO aviation submissions to the proposed change.
b) The statement which was presented in the report regarding the present usage of Wigram as being "aviation related businesses and activities have ceased, over time, to operate from and use this part of the Wigram airfield and associated facilities" is factually incorrect, indeed records show the NZ Flying School alone operates 13 aircraft and brings in something like $10 million dollars a year to the Christchurch economy. ( It is worth noting that this statement also appeared basically word for word in the initial notification of the proposed plan change, long before the submissions were receieved let alone the commissioners report written, you can draw your own conclusions from that. )
c) The Council was apparently advised that they had "no option" but to approve the plan change, which was approved "pursuant to clause 17(2) of the [Resource Management Act]". This advise received by Council, was factually incorrect, the relevant clause of the RMA indicate that the council has the option to approve, but does not require such action, allowing the Council to defer the action. ( Note, it is unclear due to public excluded proceedings regarding this matter in the last year as to whether there are other reasons for which the Council may have had "no option", again, you can draw your own conclusions. )
It's also worth having a quick squizz at the Flying School's charter ( http://www.nzflyingschool.com/ ) paying particular note to the pains at which the Flying School has gone to acknowledge and respect the Tangata Whenua, and the Treaty. It is a great shame that Ngai Tahu Property Group Limited do not see fit to return the respect and support afforded by these businesses to the people that Ngai Tahu Property Group Limited apparently respresent.
A relatively recent development idea has taken hold around the world, that of the "Residential Air Park", little old back water New Zeal'd isn't left out of the loop on this either, Air Parks are springing up all over up north, down here in the south a residential aviation development at Pukaki sold out like hot cakes.
Don't just take my word for it, here's an article from the NZ Herald or how about a search on trademe, or Google the 103,000 results
Accordingly, here is my attempt at righting the wrongs of the Christchurch City Council planning department with regard to Wigram, the red bit is what the Council wants to be residential immediately, including all the hangars and control tower and most of the taxiway, I propose this is recinded and instead propose the other areas in my freehand not to scale planning.
Some items to note here...
First is the untimely demise of the grass runway, in order to maximise the compromise between airfield and property development, it is an unfortunate but necessary cut, however, the sealed runway (which is pretty much physically indestructable!) remains.
Note the extremely large amount of space available for residential developements, it doesn't look much because the roads I've freehanded in are not in anyway to scale, but if you measure it out you will see the very (VERY) large amoutn of land allocated to housing.
The residential areas closest to the runway are for residential aviation, these would be larger sections on which a house and hangar can be constructed, each one accessible to a taxiway. This is the fashion in most airparks.
The taxi ways where possible make use of existing taxi ways.
The yellowish areas are for business and hangars. The smaller area inside the red area is the existing hangars and control tower facility, the usage for these could remain as is, or be progressively moved to perhaps engineering facilities, with the control tower forming offices for airfield operations and perhaps a tenants social club.
While the large areas along Hayton road could service both general business interests (particularly where fronting & wigram hayton roads) or for general aviation hangarage.
Note that the runway is no more obstructed than it is now, and that there is ample set back, with residential areas set further back than the business areas.
The area between Wigram Road and the runway (ie lower right) would be "stage 1", providing for the developers to both get thier hands in early with regard developing residential sections, and also would allow the remainder of the airfield to be undisturbed for several more years (one would expect). There is already a residential subdivision on the other side of Wigram road (the J shaped road, bottom right) so developing this side of the airfield first seems a natural progression.
Such a development would be a very desirable place for aviatiors to live, aviators who tend to have money to spend on such things. A place to retire to with your plane, right in the city and close to all the services you need.
Some more reading:
Full facts on airfield not heard, Wigram candidate claims.
By Cullen Smith
National Party candidate for Wigram Marc Alexander claims a gagging clause in Ngai Tahu tenancy agreements has prevented the city council hearin gthe full story on possible aviation initiatives for Wigram airfield.
The council this week accepted a petition of more than 4000 signatures from people opposed to the airfield's planned closure in February to make way for 2000 new houses.
But councillors then voted unaminously to approve a plan change that allows an 84ha portion of the 250ha airfield owne by Ngai Tahu Property Ltd to be subdivided for housing development.
Ngai Tahu Property served notice to all commerical tenants last month that the airfield would close on February 28. It will be closed to all air traffic from next month.
Mr Alexander, a former United Future MP who is standing against the incumbent Progressive Party leader Jim Anderton in the upcoming general election, presented the petition that was formally accepted by councillors on Thursday.
Mr Alexnder said petitioners urged councillors to defer approval for any plan to subdivide Wigram Airfield for housing until all interested parties had been fully consulted and briefed.
He told Western News he believed the council "got it wrong" by approving the plan change without hearing all the facts.
Under a clause in the Ngai Tahu tenancy agreement, Wigram tenants were forbidden to oppose any town planning or resource management submission made by thier landlord.
Mr Alexander said Mayor Bob Parker had reiterated to councillors that it was completely acceptable for landlords to impose such conditions.
"While that's true legally, the point has to be made that by doing so it denies the council getting more information before making an important decision," he said.
The council had been told in submissions that aviation had no future at Wigram and there were no commercial possibilities for the airfield.
"That was clearly misrepresenting the truth because the pilot school wanted to expand byt were unable to do so because Ngai Tahu basically curtailed their activities," he said.
He said he'd been told a gliding company had wanted to "set up shop" at the airfield but had been specifically prohibited.
"Ngai Tahu have every right to do those things, but to withhold that information and to give a false declaration as to the aviation possibilities at Wigram, I think was wrong."
Mr Alexander said he believbed there were some areas of Wigram that could be developed for housing without encroaching onm the possibility of retaining an airfield.
He said councillors should be "extremely sensitive" about the issue of retaining strategic assets for the city in light of the current controversy raging around the council's $17 million purchase of five inner city properties from beleaguered developer David Henderson.
"Retaining Wigram as an airfield is much more in the strategic long term interests of Christchurch than those buildings would be," he said.