Tairāwhiti Gisborne Airport

Crowning glory

A new roof for Gisborne Airport crowns long career of local roofer, Tony File.
RoofLink Issue 98 • Spring 2021

Tairāwhiti Gisborne Airport has been transformed from a tired, inadequate building to one that reflects the
significance and history of the region and recognises its role in an area that’s ramping up as a holiday destination. Located 4.2km from the city centre, the airport redevelopment – achieved in two stages in 2019 and 2020 – was funded by Eastland Group, Trust Tairāwhiti and the Provincial Growth Fund. Completion and opening of the terminal building in late 2020 had special significance for RANZ member Tony File Roofing Ltd, as it was the last contract he completed prior to the sale of his business – one that has carried out many noteworthy roofing contracts around Gisborne.

Designed by Wellington practice Tennent Brown Architects in association with Gisborne’s Architects 44, the airport building won a local award in the 2021 Public Architecture section of the New Zealand Institute of Architects Awards for Gisborne/Hawkes Bay.

With a 10-degree pitch roof, the single terminal has four tarmac gates and covers an area of 160ha, with a sealed and nightcapable 1,310m-long runway, and grass runways for light aircraft. It has many sustainable features including solar panels, rainwater harvesting, and rammed earth walls made from local greywacke rock. Sustainability is a significant aspect of the building, designed to be Living Building
Challenge LBC 3.1-compliant. This approach influenced the choice of timber for the purlins, as the carbon reduction for these is superior to a steel alternative. Timber is a predominant feature of the new terminal, which has a palette of natural timber tones that blend effectively with the Abodo eco timbers.

Roofing the terminal

The contract to install roofing on the terminal building and torch-on membrane to internal gutters at the airport was a significant “final” contract ahead of a retirement strategy for RANZ member Tony File Roofing Ltd to sell the company in August, 2020, to Edwards & Hardy. Having been involved in roofing in Gisborne for the past 30 years, Tony relished the opportunity to be involved in the creation of a new major regional airport terminal for his home city. It was a fitting conclusion to his career to work on the redevelopment, long-awaited by residents of New Zealand’s most easterly city.

The design

The airport terminal is designed to showcase and celebrate the Tairāwhiti region with extensive use of structural timbers and other features reflecting the East Coast and the influence of local Māori artists. A series of twisted steel columns, angled towards local landmark Young Nick’s Head, resembles propellers, while the airside of the building uses extensive glazing, opening up to the sky and the horizon beyond.

There are two faces to the terminal – the landside elevation represents the whare (ground-based) and the airside of the building represents the waka and the link to travel, with plenty of glazing and views to the landscape and horizon beyond. The entrance lobby opens to a public concourse featuring a 42m-long plywood Tāhuhu (ridge pole) designed by Derek Lardelli, with CNC carving on the unprimed plywood. On both sides of the entrances, two Pare lintels are carved from native totara by master carver Tiopira Rauna, welcoming passengers on both the landside and airside entrances to the terminal. A feature of the design is the shape at each end of the terminal building, which appears to resemble a hang glider. This element required precise cutting of the Thunder Grey-coloured .55 Max Styleline profile.

Using the services of local rollformer B J Moss, who was able to meet their needs, rather than relying on deliveries from out of town, made the job easier and achieved cost savings. [It transpired that the material initially specified for the airport roof, Colorcote MagnaFlow .55 had warranty issues due to the impact of aviation fuel]. Running the Dimond Styleline profile with B J Moss made it easier to achieve the cutting and shaping for the prescribed ends of the building, and to fix the unprimed plywood Styleline sheets to Plywood I beams.

In addition to the roof, Tony File Roofing also provided the torch-on membrane, supplied by Equus, for lining all the internal gutters. To comply with the stringent sustainability requirements of the project, the plywood for the torch-on membrane was not primed, and most of the materials chosen contributed to
the building achieving a toxic-free environment. A requirement of the redevelopment was that the existing terminal remained operational; one half of the building was created in the first phase in 2019, and the remaining half was completed later in 2020 – a unique achievement by head contractor McMillan & Lockwood. An independent contracts programme manager was on-site throughout the build.

As for Tony – well, he hasn’t completely called it a day and has formed Specialist Roofing Solutions Ltd, specialising in membrane roofing only. His former company was involved in many significant roofing projects in the Gisborne region including historic Wyllie Cottage and the Toko Toru Tapu Church at Manutuke, (both of which have featured in Rooflink), the S-shaped primary school at Waikaremoana, the new Gisborne Council Chambers and the city’s new police station – to name but a few. On completing the Tairāwhiti Gisborne Airport terminal building, Tony reflected on the contract: “As the sun sets on my roofing career I will look at this roof as a sunrise on accessibility to a unique region of New Zealand”.

Gisborne has had an operating airport since 1930; the hangars and buildings were erected in 1931, at a cost of £700. Darton Field, as it was known, was built under a work scheme during the depression and was important in the development of New Zealand’s aviation history. Pioneer aviator Jean Batten, on a celebratory national tour, landed at Darton Field on August 6, 1934, in her de Havilland Moth and, during World War II, the RNZAF operated there with eight general reconnaissance Squadron-operated Vickers Vincents and Vildebeeste bi-planes for coastal patrol work.

While Gisborne can be geographically isolated by challenging topography in both north and south directions, its isolation proved an advantage during the 2020 Covid outbreaks and the enlarged and modern airport terminal will be a major regional hub now that seat pricing has become more attractive.

This article is from 'RoofLink', the RANZ quarterly industry magazine for RANZ members, trainees and industry affiliates.