A number of recent events raise some questions about the future of Woodbourne. There is one really dramatic possibility that doesn't seem to have been on the radar so to speak, but merits some discussion about its strengths and weaknesses. Should Woodbourne become an international airport?
At first glance this might sound a preposterous idea with Wellington International Airport only 20 minutes away by air, and Wellington being the capital of New Zealand, while Blenheim is only a modest rural centre. Scratching below the surface though, there is good reason to consider the idea. Wellington has a problem. While it has an international airport, the airport is notorious for often difficult conditions, and with a runway of only 1936 metres, and nowhere to expand, Wellington has long suffered from the inability to handle many types of larger aircraft, and even those aircraft that do service international routes are limited in range due to limited take-off weights on the relatively short runway.
Woodbourne has traditionally been a military base, with civilian use alongside, and with only a 1425m runway has been even further restricted than Wellington with regard to the aircraft types that can operate . Where Woodbourne differs from Wellington, is that there is room to expand considerably if land were acquired, and with recent Waitangi Trubunal settlements, declining vineyard prices and likely significant cutbacks to Defence Force use of Woodbourne, the time is right to talk about Woodbourne as a possible international airport.
Wellington will never be able to expand to accommodate the types of aircraft that Woodbourne could, yet Wellington and Blenheim are so close by air, that turning Woodbourne into the international airport and operating Wellington as a domestic satellite airport could end up beneficial for both. With local iwi cashed up from recent settlements an international airport could be one possibility for investment that would benefit the whole Marlborough community.
Of course aircraft generate noise and aren't particularly environmentally friendly, but on the other hand, the area around Woodbourne has already been infested with noisy frost fans, and profits from a sucessful international airport venture and the huge boost to the local economy could help fund the greening of Marlborough. The reality is international air traffic is going to go somewhere, and it may as well be Marlborough. Woodbourne as an international airport isn't without precendent. It was the departure point for the first NZ-Australia trans-Tasman flight when Chales Kingsford-Smith made his return flight after his historic first flight from Australia to NZ. Marlborough also has historic sites marking some of the first international arrivals, both Polynesian and European, to this country, so in some ways it would be fitting if Marlborough were restored as an international gateway.