29 Oct 2020

Councillors support move to put Queenstown and Wānaka airport plans on hold

4:48 pm on 29 October 2020

Queenstown Lakes councillors have supported Queenstown Airport's promise not to increase the number of aircraft into Queenstown or develop Wānaka Airport before July 2023.

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An Air New Zealand plane being prepped for takeoff in Queenstown (file picture). Photo: 123RF

The Queenstown Airport Corporation's statement of intent went before the council today.

The airport revised its statement of intent in light of the Covid-19 pandemic and will not apply to increase the aircraft movements allowed at Queenstown Airport or develop Wānaka Airport during the three-year period covered by the statement.

Both had been contentious in the local communities and were shelved following public opposition.

They were only to be canvassed again once the public had been consulted.

Several members of the public gave their views on any potential expansion of the airport's operations during this afternoon's meeting, many were vehemently opposed to any future expansion of aircraft movements.

Councillor Penny Clark implored her fellow councillors to focus on what was important right now.

"The team at the airport, the way I see it, have a big job to do," she said.

"They have to keep that airport viable. We must look after our staff. We must plan for the border to open one day. There is a lot of work to be done here so I want you concentrating on that rather than worrying about every two words in this document."

The council voted to agree to the statement of intent eight votes to two.

The airport corporation is 75 percent by Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC) and the remainder by Auckland International Airport.

Future planning for Queenstown and Wānaka airports would now involve local councils and central government working together.

The airport paid shareholders dividends of $8.3 million during the past financial year and anticipated paying dividends of $2.5m again in the 2023 financial year.

The statement of intent assumed international air travel would not resume during the 2021 financial year, but still projected 1.24m passenger movements through Queenstown Airport.

The statement of intent also acknowledged Christchurch International Airport's shock acquisition of 750 hectares of farmland near Cromwell in Central Otago.

"We note the July 2020 announcement by Christchurch International Airport Limited (CIAL) that it has acquired 750 hectares of rural land in Tarras, Central Otago, with the intention of developing a new large-scale, wide-body jet capable international airport in QLDC's neighbouring district at some point in the future," the statement said.

"We note that if CIAL's proposal was to move forward, QLDC and its residents would be reliant on the resource management process alone to respond to the social, environmental, infrastructure and economic impacts of this type of airport development on the region.

"The QAC [Queenstown Airport Corporation] board of directors is confident that the region is well served by its existing airports now and into the future. While we do not view CIAL's announcement as having an impact on QAC's business operations over the period covered by this [statement of intent], it will be considered as part of our long-term planning work."

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