Nelson airport chief executive Rob Evans outside the soon to be opened terminal. Photo: Charles Anderson.

New airport set to soar

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The final part of Nelson Airport’s $32million overhaul is almost complete as the new departures’ hall is set to open next Tuesday.

It will mark the end of the two-year build which has seen the demolition of the original terminal and the creation of a new, ambitious design for a building that reflects the region and its growth.

However, chief executive Rob Evans says that he is torn over the completion of the project.

“When you have had your heart and soul in something like this for so long, it is hard to let go.”

However, he was proud of the team – having managed the build and run an airport at the same time.

“We have all been doing two jobs.”

Jointly owned by the Nelson city and Tasman district councils, the airport company began the redevelopment in June 2017, with an expectation it would take two years. The new infrastructure has been designed to cater for the forecast growth to 1.4 million passengers in 2035.

Rob says there are always hiccups in construction, but it had largely gone to plan and budget.

The new terminal will see check-ins move from where they are now to a dedicated departures area. McCashin’s are also opening a bar, to go along with the two cafes in the terminal.

Rob says Jetstar’s decision to pull out of Nelson next month was “disappointing” but was confident that Air New Zealand and other airlines would pick up the slack without punishing customers in the pocket.

The airport’s official opening is on Saturday.

The terminal won’t be fully operational until Tuesday, with the new baggage claim area not up and running for a few weeks. It will mark the first time that bags will be collected inside rather than outside.

Rob says the building itself is an “engineering feat of national significance”.

It uses locally grown and processed timber connected by steel that is designed to move laterally and vertically with earthquakes. It is also naturally ventilated, using airflows rather than air conditioning to cool the terminal.

The building is also future proofed, allowing for future growth if necessary.

“It’s not perfect right now but it will be,” says Rob. “It’s been an extraordinary few years for everyone involved and we should all be really proud.”