New Plymouth Airport flying high after scooping District’s third big accolade

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New Plymouth Airport’s new terminal has won a major international airport award – up against projects including an $8 billion upgrade at New York’s La Guardia airport.

The terminal, Te Hono, has picked up the special prize for an airport exterior at the Prix Versailles Airports 2021 announced at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on Wednesday (Dec 14). La Guardia was the overall winner. 

New Plymouth Airport is on the ancestral land of Taranaki’s Puketapu hapū and members collaborated with the project team, design consultants Beca and builders Clelands to ensure their legacy was reflected.

“Everyone involved in this project put in hard mahi to create an innovative, world-class airport building that tells a Taranaki story and showcases our unique heritage,” New Plymouth’s District Mayor Neil Holdom said.

“This achievement follows on from New Plymouth winning the World’s Most Liveable City award and NPDC’s Bowl of Brooklands being named Aotearoa’s Best Big Venue, we couldn’t be prouder – it’s a fantastic celebration of our Sustainable

Lifestyle Capital and reflects the opportunities that can be realised for everyone through working in collaboration with mana whenua,” he said.

New Plymouth Airport chief executive David Scott said although the last two years had been extremely challenging for airports around the world, the award recognized New Plymouth Airport is well placed for a brighter future.

“This is a massive lift for everyone involved and we couldn’t be happier. We look forward to sharing Te Hono with travelers from around the world for many years to come,” he said.

Te Hono was up against heavyweight competition in the Prix Versailles. Other finalists were LaGuardia Airport, Berlin’s Brandenburg Airport, Athens International Airport, Kazakhstan’s Hazrat Sultan International Airport and the Philippines’ Clark International Airport.

The Prix Versailles World Judges Panel annually select airports and terminals for their innovation, creativity, reflection of local heritage and energy efficiency.

Te Hono’s design encompasses the entire terminal and reflects the Puketapu origin story of Tamarau at the northern end, Rongoueroa at the southern end with a Tuahu panel in the centre with a figurine depicting their child Awa-Nui-A-Rangi.

Hapū member and cultural design lead Rangi Kipa said being named a Prix Versailles finalist was quite different to other awards the airport had received because it took it beyond a parochial view associated with New Zealand awards.

The terminal opened in March last year and is designed to cater for 650,000 people a year.

New Plymouth Airport is wholly owned by NPDC through the independent airport company Papa Rererangi i Puketapu.

Cultural narrative of Te Hono

The terminal building was designed in partnership with Puketapu hapū with a distinctive cultural narrative, which is central to its appeal and designed to support the airport’s potential growth.

It is based on the Te Ātiawa legend of a whatu kura, or celestial being, called Tamarau-te-heketanga-a-rangi who came down from the heavens when he saw a woman called Rongoueroa bathing in the Waiongana River. They had a child called Awanuiarangi, whose descendants were known as Ko Te Ātiawa no Runga i Te Rangi (Te Ātiawa descended from the very heavens above).

This theme of the sky meeting the earth is reflected in the stepped roof that sweeps down from the north side to a turf-mounded southern end.

The terminal is also be aligned to the traditional Puketapu hapū track from Mount Taranaki to the fishing grounds at the mouth of the Waiongana stream, with the main pedestrian concourse continuing the walking track through the heart of the building.