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April 20, 2015 | by  | in VUWSA |
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Yarn With Zwaan

Welcome back to uni! I hope you’ve had a great break.

So in case you haven’t hear about this, Wellington City Council has plans in place to extend the airport’s runway by a massive 300 metres at the bargain price of only $1 million per metre. Here are some other things you could get for $300m:

  • 600,000 easter eggs
  • 300 Beyoncé shows in Wellington
  • Over 1200 flights to space on Virgin Galactic
  • 1.25 million years of phone credit
  • 93,750,000 long blacks from Vic Books (with the VUWSA membership discount)

While long blacks for a few millennia would be pretty sweet, in all seriousness we need to weigh up if it’s worth extending the runway. One of the key benefits being used to push the idea is that it will attract more international students to Wellington. As much as it would be great to be able to fly direct to destinations around the world, I’m not sold on this being the best thing we can do to attract more students to the city. In fact, the economic analysis commissioned by the airport referred to a study that showed that “International connectivity/ease of travel does not come up [as a factor in Chinese students’ choice of institution] but awareness and profile of countries and institutions are important.”

In my time working alongside and hanging out with international students, the key issues with life in Wellington that they raise is the shocking standard of flats and the cost of transport. The reputational ramifications of students travelling back home and saying “Vic was great but I lived in a mouldy flat and it costs heaps to get around the city” is far worse, in my view, than “I had to fly through Auckland”. Also, it’s such a trap to make travelling here slightly easier for international students but then do very little to ensure that their welfare while they study here is cared for.

If we seriously want to attract more students to the city and ensure that their time here is worthwhile, here’s a couple other ways we could spend $300m:

  • Fairer Fares on public transport for tertiary students in Welly for about 100 years
  • Warm up about 150,000 flats with free insulation (btw there’s fewer than 10,000 student flats in Welly)

I’d far prefer to live in a healthy flat, be able to afford the bus, and earn enough to pay for a flight overseas than to be able to fly there on a slightly bigger plane.
Disclaimers: I’m not anti big planes or runways (in fact I used to fly gliders and wanted to be a pilot before coming to uni), the city council is also supporting cheaper bus fares, these figures are all robust estimates, and I drink flat whites not long blacks.

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