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WELLINGTON, June 8 (Reuters) - New Zealand's Auckland International Airport said on Thursday it will spend NZ$1.8 billion ($1.3 billion) over the next five years to expand and improve facilities as record numbers of tourists arrive in the Pacific country.
The operator of the country's largest airport said it planned to boost the number of international aircraft gates, build a new domestic terminal and expand its immigration and check-in processing areas.
"As a result of this significant investment in infrastructure over the next five years, there will be better and faster passenger journeys through and around our airport," chief executive Adrian Littlewood said in a statement.
New Zealand is in the midst of a visitor boom, with a record number of people entering the country and tourism overtaking the dairy industry as the nation's top export earner.
The number of passengers at Auckland Airport has grown by almost a quarter in the past three years to around 18 million a year, leaving infrastructure struggling to keep up. National carrier Air New Zealand has urged the airport to upgrade its facilities.
The airport said average international passenger charges over the next five years would decrease around 1.7 percent a year in real terms, while domestic passenger fees would rise 0.8 percent, targetting a return on investment of 6.99 percent.
Auckland Airport is also planning a second international runway for 2028, and would charge a runway land charge of NZ$1.19 for each passenger from 2020 or 2021 when construction is expected to start.
$1 = 1.3904 New Zealand dollars Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield; Editing by Richard Pullin