Air NZ proposes new Central Otago airport - out of the blue
The current growth consultation process by Queenstown Airport has been potentially undermined by a submission released by Air New Zealand this afternoon, calling for a completely new airport away from Queenstown.
In a surprise move, Air New Zealand has released a submission that says that even expanded Queenstown noise boundaries won't be enough to meet demand. A Queenstown Airport spokesperson advised Crux this afternoon that it had been made aware of the request by media for the Air NZ submission, but was provided no further detail.
The Air New Zealand submission seems to by-pass Wanaka as a significant option and opens the possibility of a new airport being developed near Cromwell.
Here's an extract form the Air NZ submission:
"Air New Zealand does not consider increases to noise limits at QAC, even combined with investment into Wanaka Airport, will ultimately be sufficient to sustainably grow visitor arrivals and the associated economic health of central Otago."
The full Air New Zealand submission is here.
The Air New Zealand submission will be a great relief to many in Wanaka who are opposed to their airport being expanded but it's too early to know if Cromwell would welcome such a development.
Most importantly, the Air New Zealand submission indicates that the strategy process is not being driven from the South Island, but of course it could be a pre-emptive move to address opposition from local residents to further Queenstown airport expansion. The carrot for Cromwell would be economic benefits from tourism and airport operations. The road through the Kawarau Gorge remains a major stumbling block.
Crux asked Queenstown Airport management for comment this afternoon and they issued this statement:
"While we won’t be making specific comments on individual submissions related to the proposed noise changes, we acknowledge that Air New Zealand is an important customer and key airport stakeholder. We appreciate that they have made a submission both in their own name as well as together with the other airlines that serve Queenstown Airport through their industry organisation. We feel a strong responsibility to consider all viewpoints expressed during the public consultation, including those from the community and stakeholders, in an effort to strike the right balance for everyone involved.”
The Air New Zealand submission could be something of game changer for the entire district. If future air travel facilities move away from Queenstown and Wanaka towards Cromwell then the tourism load, and benefits, could be spread across a wider area and also across two different local councils - QLDC and CODC.
Speaking to Crux this afternoon in response to Air New Zealand's submission Mayor Jim Boult said he was "surprised" that the airline had released its submission in advance of the current consultation process being completed. "My view is that some expansion of Queenstown airport, coupled with a greater role for Wanaka airport, is the best route to take. I am sceptical that building a new airport elsewhere would be practical, especially as such a project has never been undertaken since the Resource Management Act was introduced."
Mayor Boult also said that he was keeping an open mind and was not against the consideration of other options.