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The Civil Aviation Act 2023 replaces the Airport Authorities Act 1966 (the AA Act). From 5 April 2023, no new Airport Authorities can be granted. Any new applications must be for registered airport operator status under the new Act.

Airport registration

The 2023 Act discontinues the requirement to be authorised as an airport authority (under the AA Act) in order to operate an airport, replacing it with a registration system linked to compliance with relevant airport operator obligations under the 2023 Act. The move reflects both modern regulatory thinking and the evolution of airports’ role within the transport system.

The 2023 Act includes rights and obligations for airports that are, for the most part, carried over from the existing regime in updated form. These include access to land acquisition powers, consultation on charges, price setting, information disclosure, leasing, and other rights and obligations for managing their airports.

To promote collaboration and transparency, there is also a new requirement for airport operators to consult stakeholders and government on spatial plans (e.g. master plans). This does not mandate any specific form of spatial planning, however, as airport operators undertake planning that is fit for purpose for their aerodrome. This consolidates best practice and aligns with existing obligations.

Existing airport authorities will have until 5 April 2030 to register as Airports under the 2023 Act. The Airport Authorities Act will continue to apply to them during that period until they are registered. The 2023 Act also includes provisions preserving existing charges and bylaws when an airport authority is registered as an Airport

Regulatory Airport Spatial Undertakings

The most significant addition to the existing airports regime is a new requirement for some airports to have an approved plan, called a Regulatory Airport Spatial Undertaking (RASU). A RASU will set out how an airport operator will accommodate government agencies that operate at their airport.

If an airport operator meets the threshold for a RASU, they must register under the 2023 Act  (i.e. the five-year transition period noted above does not apply).

We are engaging with the affected airport operators and government agencies to develop and document the RASU process.

What are RASUs about?

A RASU will be required if one or more government agencies routinely operate at an airport and have a statutory ability to require space to do that (they have a “space requirement” at the airport). A definition of “relevant government agencies” will be published on the Ministry’s website later, as part of implementing the Act.

Government’s intention is to prevent operational misalignment when airports are working to accommodate agencies’ needs. RASUs are designed to set out how an airport proposes to meet its regulatory obligations under civil aviation and border legislation.

RASUs will be owned by the airport, but must be agreed with relevant government agencies and approved by the Secretary for Transport. This will promote government-airport collaboration at New Zealand’s air border on an ongoing basis, to balance government outcomes with airports’ commercial needs.