3 Dec 2020

Protesters play dead as council hears opposition to Tarras airport

2:36 pm on 3 December 2020

Plans for a proposed airport in a small South Island town have faced strong push back during a Christchurch City Council meeting today.

The Extinction Rebellion demonstration at Christchurch City Council during a meeting this morning.

The Extinction Rebellion demonstration at Christchurch City Council during a meeting this morning. Photo: Eleish Foon

Just a day after the New Zealand government declared a climate emergency, protesters from Extinction Rebellion played dead in front of councillors - with a message to stop plans for an International Airport at Tarras, in Central Otago.

Four groups opposed to the build spoke for 10 minutes each this morning at the city council's Finance and Performance Committee meeting.

Climate activists pretended to die in front of Christchurch City councillors as they joined Tarras residents to oppose the planned Central Otago airport.

School Strike 4 Climate NZ's Ciara Foley said she was "ashamed of the council" for considering the project, "developing an unsustainable airport that we do not need".

Christchurch Airport announced in July that it had bought land in the small town of Tarras and intended to build an airport there to attract the nearby Queenstown tourism market.

Christchurch Airport is 75 percent owned by the city council's holding company, of which four councillors - Mayor Lianne Dalziel, Deputy Mayor Turner, Sarah Templeton, and James Gough, sit on the board.

Tarras resident Chris Goddard, representing local community group Sustainable Tarras, said the secrecy over the airport plans was not warranted.

"We do not actually know whether it's a $2 billion development or less than $1 billion - $46 million dollars..." he said.

He called on the release of the draft business case, plans and timeline, in a bid for transparency around the new airport.

Thousands of people within the community living close to the proposed sight will be affected by the decision, he said.

The community was either against the airport entirely or wanted more information, which the airport would not provide.

In response to the protest and opposition today, Christchurch City Councillor Tim Scandrett said, "I think they spoke really well. I would hate to think Christchurch City Council is overbearing into a rural community - that would not be positive at all."

According to Christchurch Airport's chief executive, Malcom Johns, the Tarras airport was expected to be operational within five-to-15 years and would cost hundreds of millions to build.

Johns was unavailable for comment, but project director Michael Singleton gave this statement:

"We completely understand the critical challenges the global climate emergency presents our planet. Climate change plays a major role in our decision-making at Christchurch Airport and in the Tarras project we are exploring," he said.

"How to best deliver future air services to the South Island in a sustainable, low-carbon way is a complex issue and one we need to develop solutions for.

"We are openly sharing information with the community and have so far met with more than 100 people in and around Tarras about our project."