Tarras group claims Christchurch ratepayers being kept in the dark

by Kim Bowden - Sep 08, 2022

A grassroots anti-airport group in Tarras has gone in to bat for Christchurch ratepayers.

Sustainable Tarras has launched a second video, which details its concerns about the impact of the proposed Central Otago Airport on the people of Christchurch.

The new international airport is being proposed by Christchurch Airport, which is 75 percent owned by the Christchurch City Council.

In the video, Sustainable Tarras claims industry experts estimate the project will cost more than $1 billion.

“Christchurch Airport has already spent $45 million buying up land, at around twice the market value.

“Now they are spending millions each year on moving their plans forward.

“But all of this without the people of Christchurch having a say - no public discussion, no open debate in council, no sharing of detail or any in-depth information about the project.”

However, a spokesperson for the airport says the company has made available to the public accurate information on the proposed new airport.

“The videos being shared by a group opposed to our project are largely made up of their opinions and assumptions.

“While we are respectful of their firm views around us exploring the potential for a new airport, we would encourage people to go to the project’s website for accurate information.

The airport maintains if the project is not viable it will not proceed, the spokesperson says.

"On that basis, those opposed should be relaxed about our exploring it.”

But, Marilyn Duxson, the chair of Sustainable Tarras, argues decisions are being made behind closed doors, without sufficient community involvement.

She says there’s genuine concern the project is committing future generations of Christchurch ratepayers to significant risk and possible rate increases, without reasonable debate, discussion or disclosure of details. 

“This has the potential to become a billion-dollar white elephant for Christchurch.

“There is a real lack of transparency around key aspects of this project.

“There is no reason for Christchurch Airport not to front up with details.”

Alongside the 10-minute-long video, Sustainable Tarras has published a full script, with footnotes containing links and references.

“We want to be very transparent about our sources of information and data," Ms Duxson says.

“Christchurch Airport isn't providing the full picture. So we will share everything we can.”

The video's the second in a series entitled “The Central Otago Airport Files”, which the group says it’s publishing to stimulate open, transparent, public debate about the proposed airport.

The first episode focuses on Christchurch Airport’s claim to be “climate positive”, which Sustainable Tarras sees as the company engaging in "greenwashing".

In response to the first video, an airport spokesperson has told Crux the group's allegations of greenwashing are “ill-informed”. 

But Sustainable Tarras says this “blanket statement” reply from the airport to the issues raised in the first video has shut down debate, and that’s frustrating.

“CIAL gave a blanket statement around multiple errors in our video. Clarifying the specific errors we have made will help build an informed debate for local residents and wider New Zealand.

They haven’t held a public meeting in Tarras in over 520 days, preferring to engage only with carefully selected individuals or groups. 

“They won’t engage with us directly or openly. Clearly, we are frustrated.”

The latest episode of “The Central Otago Airport Files", produced by Sustainable Tarras


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