Mayor shuts down Wanaka- Chch shuttle flights
The Managing Director of the company planning to introduce shuttle flights between Wanaka and Christchurch says Mayor Jim Boult is blocking the service.
Andrew Crawford of Sounds Air told Crux today that Mayor Boult and Queenstown Airport Corporation CEO Colin Keel are both saying "No" to the introduction of flights in spite of the fact that numerous surveys of Wanaka locals have said that scheduled turbo prop flights would be welcome - but not jets.
Sounds Air would operate small and relatively quiet 9 seater turboprop aircraft, with no need to extend the existing runway or terminal building.
Neither Boult, Keel nor the Queenstown Airport Comms team responded to Crux enquiries today.
Crawford says that he is "perplexed" by the stonewalling of his proposed service, especially given the need to get people and businesses moving post Covid-19.
"We've never been refused permission to operate from an airport before" Crawford told Crux.
Protect Wanaka Chair Michael Ross was quick to question the Mayor's opposition.
"We're very surprised at the Mayor's stance. He has spent the last few weeks imploring New Zealanders to support the region, asking people to come here and spend time and money in the region. He has, quite rightly, stated that businesses are struggling and the region needs to diversify. Yet, here we have an airline ready and willing to create a daily air link between Christchurch and Wanaka, to bring people in and allow business people to connect out to Christchurch, and Mr Boult wants to block it.
"It is also patently ridiculous to suggest that the "pause" in development of a jet airport at Wanaka or the most recent SOI in any way limit the ability of Sounds Air to fly small turbo props into the existing airport."
Another member of the Protect Wanaka group, lawyer Wayne Hudson, has highlighted the fact that all recent versions of the Queenstown Airport Corporation Statement of Intent contain nothing to stop Sounds Air introducing flights between Wanaka and Christchurch.
Here are the two SOI extracts provided by Mr Hudson - followed by his notes.
SOI Version 1:
We welcome the recent announcement by QLDC that it proposes to undertake independent economic and social impact assessments of the impact (positive and negative) of future airport development on the district and its communities. Some of this work is already underway by QAC as part of our master planning processes and we will work with QLDC to ensure that the independent assessments inform our planning work. To that end, we will not formally progress the expansion of the noise boundaries at Queenstown Airport or the introduction of scheduled services at Wanaka Airport until QLDC has undertaken these assessments.
SOI Version 2:
QLDC is currently undertaking independent economic and social impact assessments of future airport development on the district and its communities, as well as the regional spatial planning process. QAC has committed not to seek any expansion of the air noise boundaries at Queenstown Airport or begin development of Wānaka Airport to introduce scheduled services at this time.
(Wayne Hudson) "Under either version there is nothing to stop Sounds Air from introducing scheduled services to Wanaka. Under version 1 the “independent economic and social impact assessments” have now been completed (for what they may or may not be worth). Under version 2 no development of Wanaka airport is required to allow scheduled services of the type offered by Sounds Air."
Crux will publish a response from Mayor Jim Boult and QAC boss Colin Keel as soon as they are received.