Big lift at Nelson Airport

A new landmark at Nelson Airport is taking shape with the roof of the $7.5 million control tower craned into place.

Around it, the separate $32 million airport redevelopment project, which started in May this year, is on schedule to be finished in the middle of next year. Travellers will be relieved that the first of the new carparking areas will be opened next month.

The lift of the steel control tower roof went smoothly in calm conditions at 6.30am on Thursday. Two cranes lifted the seven-tonne structure into place.

The $7.5 million, 22-metre high tower is owned by Airways New Zealand and is being built by Gibbons Construction adjacent to the new terminal development.

Airways manager of future systems Tim Boyle said air traffic controllers in the new tower's operational centre would have 360-degree views of the airfield.

He said there was still "a lot of work" to do before the tower was operational, but the roof lift was an important milestone.

Boyle said the next step was the manufacture and installation of the tower's glass windows and the completion of  the interior, including installing aircraft surveillance and traffic control technology.

Meanwhile, the airport's first 300 redeveloped carparks are planned to reopen in the first week of December.

Airport chief executive Rob Evan said there was still a lot of work to be done but the redevelopment was making progress.

He said disruption was kept as low as possible, and for the most part people had been understanding of the construction. 

"By and large the feedback's really positive, and as we progress, we open new spaces up and put in new roads, it's been getting better every day," he said.

The new terminal building will be twice the size of the existing one with more seating, airline lounges, toilets and retail spaces. The number of car parks will increase from 600 to 900.

Timber will feature prominently throughout, and a unique roof structure has been designed to mimic the western ranges, which can be viewed through the "floor to ceiling" windows.

The number of people coming into Nelson through the airport increased by a third in two years, and is expected to keep going up.

From June 2016 until June 2017, over one million passengers landed or took off from Nelson Airport.

The new terminal is being built with a forecast 70 per cent increase in passengers in the next 17 years in mind.

 - Stuff