Christchurch residents will be losers if new Tarras airport goes ahead, council told

4:31 pm on 15 February 2023
Proposed site of new airport

The council has spent $45 million on land for the project. Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

A disaster economics professor has told Christchurch City Council he believes a planned airport will fail.

In July 2020, Christchurch Airport, majority owned by the council, announced the purchase of 750 hectares of Central Otago farmland in Tarras, with the hope of building an international airport.

A trio of professors presented an open letter to the council this morning, signed by academics opposing the project.

The chair of the Economics of Disasters and Climate Change at Victoria University's School of Economics and Finance, Professor Ilan Noy, told councillors today ratepayers will lose regardless of whether the development succeeds.

"If Tarras fails, which I think is by far the most likely outcome, the citizens of Christchurch will lose a lot of money," he said.

Christchurch Airport has already spent $45 million to buy the land.

"If Tarras does succeed, which I don't think is a plausible scenario, Christchurch ratepayers will still lose because this will drive away business, tourism and services from Christchurch," Noy said.

'Fundamentally at odds' with policy and strategy

University of Otago professor of sustainable tourism James Higham said the project differed from central government's tourism strategy.

"The proposed Tarras Airport development is fundamentally at odds with the policy statements, strategy documents and commitments that give direction to tourism renewal after the Covid-19 pandemic," he said.

Last year, the tourism minister announced he wanted to see a larger focus on high-value tourists and sustainability post-Covid.

Canterbury University climate expert Professor Bronwyn Hayward added it also went against the council's values.

"There is a serious misalignment with the council's own decisions and strategic goals...You have set a goal of being carbon-neutral by 2030 as a council," she said.

"Think about the infrastructure, because it is far less carbon intensive to extend the infrastructure that you have in Christchurch than to build a whole new airport.

"Please put your money where your values are."

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