Queenstown airport on Tarras backdown: 'Common sense has prevailed'

by Peter Newport - Feb 28, 2024

Queenstown airport's CEO Glen Sowry says that "common sense has prevailed" as Christchurch International Airport Ltd (CIAL) has agreed to put their Tarras international airport plan on hold following direction from their 75% shareholder Christchurch City Holdings Ltd, the trading arm of Christchurch City Council.

In a statement to Crux, Mr Sowry says that the current situation where Christchurch and Queenstown airports complement each other should continue.

Queenstown airport CEO Glen Sowry - "common sense has prevailed."

"Christchurch Airport plays an important role serving as the main gateway into the South Island with good long-haul international connectivity. Queenstown Airport is very clear about the role we play in providing excellent domestic and short-haul international connections to the East Coast of Australia.

"I believe that Christchurch and Queenstown airports respective strengths and market positions complement each other.

"Queenstown Airport achieved a significant milestone late last year with shareholder endorsement of our Master Plan. At the core of our Master Plan is responding to and aligning with the sustainable tourism aspirations of the communities of the region we serve.

"As we implement our Master Plan and decarbonisation strategy, we will continue to work with the regional tourism organisations in support of the destination management plans for the Queenstown Lakes, Wanaka, and Central Otago.

"Common sense has prevailed."

Crux has also received a statement from Christchurch City Holdings Ltd this morning stressing that not only were there concerns about the ability of the CIAL Tarras airport project to produce an acceptable return on investment but they were not convinced the Tarras airport project had enough public support or sufficient sustainable tourism credentials.

This is from the acting Chief Executive of CCHL, Paul Silk. He refers to the Tarras airport proposal as the "Central Otago project."

“We will continue to work alongside CIAL on all potential growth initiatives. We support CIAL’s decision to take time to reflect on the significant amount of information gathered to date, and in the context of new information emerging at a national and regional level.

“This includes the region’s strong desire to ensure transport infrastructure is aligned with a pivot toward sustainable tourism, together with the potential changes to infrastructure planning, funding and delivery frameworks signalled by the new government.”

“As the majority shareholder, we appreciate there are a wide range of views on the Central Otago project. We support CIAL undertaking long-term strategic work on issues around regional tourism, economic growth and the future of sustainable aviation right across Te Waipounamu. This includes an expectation that they will continue to engage effectively with local communities.” 

“With substantial work now completed on the Central Otago site, we will focus our work with CIAL on other opportunities that exist to deliver the strong returns required to support the objectives of the wider CCHL Group, Council and Christchurch ratepayers.”

Read more: Christchurch Airport puts brakes on Tarras airport plans

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