Auckland International Airport's aged domestic terminal is to be replaced as part of a new priority development by the airport company.
Demolition will get underway soon to enable construction on the new integrated domestic and international terminals.
The airport has reset its expansion plans due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of that, four other projects remain on hold while the domestic terminal change is being reprioritised.
Site preparation will begin early next year. In the first stages of the project, flights will arrive and depart from a new domestic terminal hub adjoined to the current international terminal.
"We haven't wasted a day since the outbreak of COVID-19, using the time to plan ahead and develop a refreshed pathway for future infrastructure that is realistic, prioritises the right projects and is carefully aligned with aviation's recovery," said Auckland Airport Chief Executive Adrian Littlewood.
"The construction of a new domestic facility closely integrated with our international safe travel zone operations will provide a seamless journey between major New Zealand destinations and our global air connections. For Auckland-based travellers, a new transport hub with upgraded pedestrian, transport links, and car parking will offer a smooth connection into the terminal building."
Auckland Airport had already signed construction contracts for a new domestic jet hub prior to the pandemic, featuring a new pier, apron and airside dwell, food and beverage and retail spaces. But it was one of the first major infrastructure projects cancelled or deferred at Auckland Airport when COVID-19 hit.
"Even though international passenger numbers are currently at historic lows it is important to set the wheels in motion now in preparation for aviation's recovery. Kiwis want a better domestic travel experience at Auckland Airport and that's what we're focused on delivering," Littlewood said.
"We previously had around 30,000 people arriving and departing at the international terminal every day. That's fallen by around 97 percent to just a thousand or so a day currently. We're taking advantage of the downturn where we can, demolishing and relocating operations and services to clear the domestic hub site, while bringing forward upgrades of core utilities critical to the functioning of the airport while passenger numbers are low.
"The low-traffic environment has also allowed us to re-look at and refine the original design and construction phasing to arrive at what we think will be an even better end result."
Littlewood said beyond demolition and enabling works, the next major phase of development for the $1 billion-plus domestic hub would be determined by a range of factors including the speed of aviation's recovery.
"While our aeronautical development will be matched to the recovery of air travel, we are encouraged by the ramp up in New Zealand's COVID-19 vaccination programme. It means that we can begin to look through the current situation and start to anticipate the recovery in air travel, and that is important for big infrastructure programmes, which are costly and take time to deliver. We probably have more certainty in our ability to plan now than we have had in the last 18 months since the pandemic began."
A spokesperson for Air New Zealand said the airline supported the changes being made at the airport during the COVID-19 travel downtime.
The new domestic facility will be around three times the size of the current one, when accounting for shared kiosk-based check-in for both international and domestic travellers. It will include large, light-filled dwell spaces with views across the airfield to the Manukau Harbour and expanded security screening.
A new transport hub is also planned for outside the existing international terminal, providing a new covered pick-up / drop-off area, valet services and covered car parks connected to the terminal by an enclosed pedestrian bridge. The transport hub will accommodate both commercial and public transport options for travellers.
The domestic hub will initially accommodate jet operations with regional services continuing to operate from the existing domestic terminal building and move across to the main terminal building later.
Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, Auckland Airport had begun delivering over $2 billion of core aeronautical infrastructure projects with all eight "anchor projects" in either construction or feasibility and design.
As part of its reset, Auckland Airport is continuing work on four projects as part of its wider infrastructure programme. These include around $160 million in upgrades to roading and new transit systems, the $1 billion-plus new domestic hub, approximately $200 million on the transport hub and around $75 million on upgrades to the current domestic terminal.
The projects that remain on hold include expanding the international airfield and taxiway, a new cargo precinct and a new international arrivals area.
Work on the new projects will begin around the same time the company's new, yet-to-be-named CEO takes up the role. Current chief executive Littlewood will be stepping down later this year after nearly 10 years in the job.