Hāwea or Lindis: Tarras Airport runway alignment decision imminent

by Kim Bowden - Aug 16, 2023

There’s been claims of radio silence from those backing a new airport in Tarras, but that is set to change with community information sessions set for Tarras, Cromwell and Wānaka before the end of the month.

Christchurch International Airport Limited tells Crux its runway preference alignment will be made public then.

It has been a long wait, with the airport originally indicating people would be told exactly where it wanted its runway to go at the end of last year.

Then, in May of this year, one of the project bosses, Michael Singleton, said the already-delayed information was “weeks” away from being released.

Today, he says he is “looking forward” to releasing the runway detail alongside other information at the drop-in sessions.

“There is a lot of material coming – and we hope it goes some way to answering some of the questions people have. 

“Ideally, we would have been in a position to release this earlier but have allowed the time for our experts to complete those work packages to a high standard so we can clearly communicate this complex information well.”

However Sustainable Tarras committee member Suze Keith is sceptical of the format, saying the drop-in style sessions run over five hours aren’t community orientated.

“We think it will probably be some very high-level, carefully-crafted, carefully-controlled stuff, with little opportunity for the community to actually gather together and hear answers at the same time.

“We’re really not surprised.”

During a presentation to a Wānaka Chamber of Commerce event at the end of July, Tarras airport project director Rhys Boswell said they were reluctant to host townhall-style meetings as they didn’t find them to be practically productive. 

The last such meeting held in Tarras was in August 2020. Since then, engagement has focused on invite-only sessions with selected groups.

Ms Keith says her group hasn’t just been hanging out for the runway information; also overdue, aircraft emissions and noise assessments, both also originally expected at the end of last year. 

Mr Singleton didn’t mention either when talking with Crux about what information will be covered at the drop-in sessions.

What he is promising, in addition to the runway alignment: “Information on the challenge constrained aviation capacity brings to a thriving region, how good planning can address that, as well as sharing some preliminary information on the environment on and around our land.” 

For Ms Keith the topics to be covered are almost a “distraction” from the bigger conversation that she believes is needed – one that goes far beyond Christchurch Airport and its plans for a small Central Otago township. 

“This is a discussion about the future of tourism – the airport is the far end of the pipe. There is a lot of concern nationally, which is why the tourism industry association, and others, have been working to try to work out, ‘What does sustainable or regenerative tourism actually look like?'.

"Which is surely a decision to be made before you get to the other end of the pipe, which is providing the facilities to enable whatever that future is.”

In 2020, news broke that Christchurch Airport had been involved in a series of stealthy land purchases in Tarras, with a view to building an international airport there.

An initial aeronautical assessment found an at-least 2.2 kilometre runway would be possible at the location, with two potential alignments suggested - one aligning to the Lindis Valley and Lake Dunstan, the other to the Hāwea Valley and Lake Dunstan.

Keen to drop-in on Christchurch Airport's information sessions later this month? Here's the details:

  • Tuesday, August 29, 2pm to 7pm, at the Tarras Community Hall
  • Wednesday, August 30, 2pm to 7pm, at the Cromwell Presbyterian Hall
  • Thursday, August 31, 2pm to 7pm, at Wānaka's Edgewater Resort 

The project website can be viewed here.

Read more:

Hold-out Tarras farmer sells to Christchurch Airport

Anti-airport academics ramp up fight against Tarras

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