Queenstown Airport chief executive Scott Paterson says he
expects the corporation to have ''meaningful
conversations'' with the community about what evening
flights will really involve, after winter.
In his 10th month in charge of arguably the South's most
important asset, Queenstown Airport chief executive Scott
Paterson says he has never worked in an industry that is so
Passenger numbers soar in summer, from December to the end of
Easter, then tail off in April before a ''dead'' May and a
quiet June. Then, they rocket back up in the space of a
weekend for the ''full-on'' winter sports season.
All four airlines that service Queenstown move from a
shoulder-season timetable to a winter timetable, then back to
a shoulder-season timetable, in a constant merry-go-round.
''It's almost as if the tap's turned off, so those peaks and
that seasonality is new to me, and from a chief executive's
perspective, it's important to plan my team's resources and
the activities I want the company to focus on, while
maintaining momentum,'' Mr Paterson told the Otago Daily
Being chief executive also involved gaining ''a ferocious
insight'' into the ongoing Environment Court cases involving
Frankton Flats, where the airport is situated.
A sharp increase in the number of inbound flights to
Queenstown this summer will keep Airways New Zealand staff
members (from left) air traffic controllers Andrew Turner
and Nick Gale and flight service specialist Darryl Palmer
and their colleagues in the Queenstown Airport control
tower busier than ever. Photos by James Beech.
Mr Paterson said he had spent far more days in court this
year than he would have liked.
''We're part of it - some might say we're part of the
''Our two major things in the Frankton Flats are introducing
new noise boundaries, which are really important ... for the
airport because we need to have confidence in planning our
Mr Paterson said there was agreement about the extent of the
proposed boundaries over 25 years, but the court needed to
finish the agreement.
Boundaries were gradually expanding, due to flight frequency
more than engine noise.
Those most affected by expanding boundaries live at the end
of the runway in Frankton. Only a few households were
expected to need noise mitigation in the early years of the
Noise mitigation at the developers' expense was a building
requirement for the expanding Lake Hayes Estate and the
proposed greenfield residential development, Shotover
''It's really important for our nearest neighbours because
we're introducing obligations on ourselves to mitigate
against airport and aircraft noise, which includes
double-glazing insulation and mechanical ventilation,'' Mr
''Until that's been resolved, we just don't know where we're
''The other big activity is the acquisition of land from
Remarkables Park Ltd, currently earmarked as an alternative
location for Frankton Golf Course, but [it] has a restricted
use and we'd like to acquire it to allow the development of a
whole new aviation precinct.''
Mr Paterson said the land in question was between 46ha and
48ha. There was plenty of room for the golf course and the
16ha the airport needed for its precinct.
''The problem is, we have a landowner who doesn't want to
part with that piece of land, and so we have to go through a
long drawn-out process of compulsory acquisition.
''The landowner believes that the aviation precinct is not
needed and if it is needed, it could be located somewhere
else on the airport ... the precinct is needed, it should be
on the south of the runway [but] we're not anticipating a
decision until after winter.''
Airport infrastructure continued to expand in 2012 with the
construction of the international departure lounge and Air
New Zealand's new Koru lounge above it, which cost the bulk
of the $4.2 million set aside for capital works.
Building occurred despite formidable weather and the
airport's busiest winter ever, with almost a quarter of a
million passengers in two months alone.
A factor in rocketing winter passenger numbers was the lower
number of diverted aircraft, because airlines installed
navigation performance technology that helped pilots tackle
the Wakatipu terrain and changeable weather.
Security and customs areas were also expanded, Mr Paterson
The Southern Lakes tourism industry hosted international
travel trade expo Trenz last year and, two hours after the
last flight one May evening, the terminal was transformed
into a themed reception area for 750 delegates.
The terminal was then cleared, cleaned and made available for
passengers the next morning.
The airport corporation reset pricing for airlines in 2012,
the first time since 2004, as did Dunedin, Christchurch,
Wellington and Auckland airports, and the departure tax was
abolished because it was ''not a good passenger experience'',
Mr Paterson said.
Income is now derived from the airlines directly as a
passenger charge, instead of being split between airlines and
The airport board announced last August 28 it would pay its
shareholders, the Queenstown Lakes District Council (75.1%)
and Auckland International Airport Limited (24.9%), a final
dividend of $2.6 million, bringing the total dividends paid
from profits earned for the year ended June 30, 2012 to $3.6
A $1 million dividend was paid in January 2012.
''We anticipate to be up slightly on last year's dividend,''
Mr Paterson said.
''We're working closer with Auckland Airport on not just
route development, but closer as a team.
''It's around accessing intellectual resource up in Auckland,
be it my aeronautical team turning to their team for ideas
and assistance, our fire rescue guys training with their fire
rescue and for me, bouncing ideas off a group of senior
executives is quite helpful.''
The 12-month rolling average of one million passengers
through the terminal was celebrated last March and trended
towards 1.1 million passengers in the year ended October.
The million domestic passengers in a 12-month period
milestone might be reached sometime in 2013, he said.
''Our next major terminal build is for the international
arrivals, but that's maybe 2015.
''We're going to focus back inside the terminal in 2013.
''We'll have new carpet throughout the terminal. We're
trialling theming the terminal with flags and banners and
we're looking at where the rental cars are next year.
''We're going to lose some of those rental car booths to
`back of house' developments for inbound international
''We're introducing three bands of value proposition for
rental cars. The first band will be premium ... and they will
get a slightly bigger booth and their customers will have
access to priority pick-up areas and close-to-terminal
parking, where the taxis are.
''We're looking to refresh the retail area in the second
quarter of next year and that's a work in progress. We have a
flow of people looking to have space in the terminal all the
time, but we can't accommodate them.
''It's going to be difficult to create much more space.
There's a new duty free shop in the international area to
take place in the first quarter of 2013.''
The airport maintains its interest in operating services
after daylight hours to better utilise facilities by widening
the narrow windows of arrivals and departures. The airport
already has consent to take flights from 6am to 10pm.
However, existing arrangements between airlines and the Civil
Aviation Authority prohibit evening flights and no airline
has applied to change its arrangement.
''We're pretty clear that if there are to be evening flights,
there's more lighting to be required at the airport,'' Mr
''We've got light on the runway, but no lights on the apron
and we need to illuminate the area and there's other things
we will have to do.
''Later in 2013, after winter, we expect to be able to have
those conversations with the community about what evening
flights really mean.''