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Bomb squad brought in, Airport closed for five hours

More than 100 people have finally been allowed back inside Gisborne Airport after it was evacuated this morning because of a bomb threat.

Passengers, staff, and anyone waiting in the terminal, had to wait almost five hours on a grass area on Aerodrome Road. The evacuation came just after 11am and by 4pm they were finally allowed back inside.

Hundreds of other people have also had their travel plans disrupted, either stuck in Wellington or Auckland Airports as their flights to Gisborne were delayed.

January 1 is one of Gisborne Airport’s busiest days of the year.

The bomb squad and sniffer dog were called in, and arrived by helicopter from Auckland at 3pm.

Police had blocked off the terminal, and car park, with no one able to access their cars or luggage.

The Wellington flight due to land at 11.15am had to be turned back mid-air.

Many of the passengers waiting at Gisborne Airport had travelled for the Rhythm and Vines music festival.

“Everyone just wants to go home,” said Zhane Skipper, 19, from Invercargill. She and her friend John Bardwell, 19, missed their connecting flights home to Invercargill as their flights kept getting delayed. They had no idea where they would stay tonight if the delays continued. They were hungover as well.

“We’ve had five hours sleep in three days,” said Zhane.

Despite the challenging circumstances, John was upbeat. They were just chilling, and finding it a bit of a crack up, he said.

“If this was anywhere else but Gisborne, it wouldn’t be so chilled. We’re just vibing with the spontaneity of it,” he said.

The people who lived in the neighbouring house on Aerodrome Road played reggae music to the crowd from their outdoor speaker. They also got their sprinklers out to cool them down, and were letting people charge their phones.

Trixie Tuhura said they just wanted to give everyone some, “good vibes”.

“It’s ratshit for the RnV people, the sun finally comes out for them and now this.”

Also adding to the vibe was free food.

Police handed out asparagus rolls and cheese rolls. Air New Zealand provided pizza. After two hours of waiting this morning, a portaloo was brought in and immediate queues formed.

Kay Davey had driven up from Mahia to pick up her son and grandchildren off the Wellington flight. They were inside the terminal waiting for the plane to land when the call came over the loudspeaker to evacuate due to a security threat,

Mrs Davey and her husband were trapped waiting at the airport until the situation was resolved, because their car was in the car park.

Their family had been turned around mid-flight, and were back in Wellington,

Some people had already checked through their luggage, while others who had arrived to catch their flight still had their belongings with them.

A Police spokesperson confirmed they evacuated the airport as a precaution after the threat was made.

“Police are working to establish the circumstances surrounding the threat and to speak with those involved.”

Air New Zealand will respond tomorrow about delays, how many travellers were affected, and how quickly the back log can clear.

The bomb squad arrives at Gisborne Airport with sniffer dog after being helicoptered from Auckland. Picture supplied
People waited down the road from Gisborne Airport for almost five hours. Picture by Sophie Rishworth