2 Oct 2018

Backlash halts Queenstown Airport expansion plans

2:09 pm on 2 October 2018

Plans to expand Queenstown Airport have been put on hold following community backlash.

Passengers board commercial jet at Queenstown Airport.

Queenstown Airport Corporation chief executive Colin Keel says attention will now turn to the Wanaka Airport master plan. Photo: 123RF

The airport's proposal to double flights in and out of Queenstown was met with strong opposition during public consultation earlier this year.

Queenstown Airport Corporation released close to 1500 submissions along with a statement today, saying the airport's expansion has been put on ice for now.

Instead, company chief executive Colin Keel said the corporation would turn its attention to the Wanaka Airport master plan before reconsidering further developments in Queenstown.

Many people linked the increased airport activity with wider questions about regional growth, Mr Keel said.

"We are mindful that Queenstown Airport is only one part of the wider picture and our consultation should not lead this important discussion on future growth."

The company would form a more comprehensive picture by considering the future of the Wanaka Airport and the strategic planning undertaken by the Queenstown Lakes District Council and other stakeholders, he said.

The number of flights to and from Queentown each year could double to cater for planned growth of up to 5.1 million people each year over the next three decades.

More than 92 percent of the 1337 online responses opposed the airport's plans to increase flight numbers.

In submissions, one Queenstown resident said the aircraft noise was already very disruptive and disturbed the quality of her family's time at home.

"We live in a beautiful spot but feel this is slowly being degraded by airport noise pollution."

Another resident living within the proposed new noise boundaries said infrastructure in the area could not cope with current visitor numbers, let alone boosting tourist visits.

But not all airport growth will be on hold.

Growth still expected

Former Queenstown Lakes councillor Kirsty Sharpe said the company could not go ahead with its initial plans but growth was still on the cards.

"There is still further growth because the present airport boundaries, they expect to carry through for the next three to four years so we will still get an increase in traffic in the meantime," Ms Sharpe said.

"But I don't think we can do much about that."

Ms Sharpe said Wanaka residents would not be as greatly affected as the Frankton community if their airport was expanded.

However, she anticipated heated debate if growth was proposed.

She encouraged the company to consider an international airport in Central Otago, which has been mooted by Air New Zealand.

Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Jim Boult said community consultation on the proposal has been valuable in shaping how the company planned for the future.

"As we continue to drive master planning in Queenstown, Wanaka and Frankton, the conversation with the community around air noise boundaries at Queenstown Airport has been timely," Mr Boult said.

It was critical all future growth in the district be considered in a broader context, he said.