Monaco resident of 40 years and former residents association chairwoman Chrissie Keay said residents knew nothing about the plans to excavate a section on Point Rd to install the equipment, and there had been a "complete lack of consultation".
"How could it have gone so far down the track with it starting in three weeks without us knowing it was happening," she said.
"We're very protective and passionate about our little peninsula here, and we see it as an industrialisation of our peninsula."
Nelson Airport and Airways are moving the DVOR/DME - aircraft navigation equipment - from its current site near the terminal to the land the airport owns on Monaco peninsula to provide for the future expansion of the airport. The gear would also be upgraded in the move.
Keay said it wasn't until two weeks ago residents were made aware of the airport's plans when the company dropped a flier in letterboxes about a public meeting five days later.
The flier said excavation of a basin to road level on Point Rd would start in November. Construction of an equipment shelter and foundations would take place in March next year, and set up and commissioning would be done in July next year.
It said the site was chosen as it did not restrict aircraft operations in and out of the airport.
Keay said the flier had come out of nowhere, and although the resource consent for the earthworks had been approved more than a year ago most residents knew nothing about it.
"They've just thrown this at us."
She said the structure, which would be surrounded in barbed wire for security reasons, didn't belong at Monaco and residents had the right to be upset.
"It all comes down to consultation, if this was in the works for a year, it's a disgrace that we have just heard it."
She and others were going to reactivate the residents association, make fliers and hold hold a meeting about the development.
"If the majority wants to push it we'll push it, and we'll push for the residents who are opposed to it."
Nelson Airport chief executive Robert Evans said the equipment's current location was a big constraint on the airport. "We can't develop anything within about a three hectare area so that leaves about about seven acres of land on the airport next to the terminal which we're not able to develop on".
The navigation equipment cannot be near anything over a certain height, due to signal obstruction.
He said the land the equipment was currently on was valuable because it was "next to the apron, it's next to the runway and the terminal expansion area".
"For quite some time it's been identified that the land that we own on Monaco peninsula is really not much use for anything because of its location to the runway, but it is ideally suited to the location of this aviation equipment."
He said the equipment would "basically sit in a hole" as the structure cannot obstruct the airspace. Only two "arrow things" would sit above the line of the land.
He said the structure would be visible, but "only for the purposes that you'll just drive past it". The airport and Airways had discussed covering the hole so it was not open to the road when the work was finished, Evan said.
"We need to get it built and established and then have a look at what we can do around that."
He did not think the structure was "industrialising Monaco" and it was one of the few places the equipment could go due to technical requirements.
"We've owned that land and like all the residents we're entitled to build like all the residents, and we think the impacts are pretty minimal once it's up and running, it'll be barely noticeable."
He said the airport needed to prepare for future growth and start on its long term plan.
"Our effort to consult and discuss with residents was in my view a positive step.
"There's no requirement for that, but we thought it was an important thing to do. I guess it can be a double-edged sword sometimes but we're more than happy to have those conversations."
Although he did agree with residents who thought consultation should have taken place earlier he said he "wasn't here two years ago, I'm here now and I felt it was important that we had a conversation with it.
"I appreciate it upset a few people but I really do think once it's in and operating it'll have very little impact on daily life."
Excavation work will start next month.
Last updated 09:12, November 2 2015