Air New Zealand and
the Wanaka Chamber of Commerce squared off yesterday at the
Wanaka Airport plan change hearing on just how big Wanaka
Airport could be in 20 years' time.
Chamber spokesman John Beattie told independent hearing
commissioners Bob Batty and Stephen Chiles yesterday the
airport should be the future principal regional airport at
night-time, because district plan rules prevent Queenstown
Airport from operating beyond 10pm.
The airport was "critical" to the well-being of the Upper
Clutha district, which relied on tourism as its "lifeblood",
Mr Beattie said.
Growth in tourism, particularly from Australia, and in the
numbers of jet aircraft numbers in the Asia Pacific region
would be such that Wanaka Airport would be a strategic
international airport option, he said.
Air New Zealand's view is that Wanaka Airport growth
projections are so unrealistic and unclear that new
night-time noise boundaries and development restrictions
should not be imposed on neighbours.
It does not believe Wanaka's tourism market is dependent on
having its own airport and does not think the district's two
airports should compete for jets.
The airline's infrastructure strategy manager Eric Morgan
said yesterday he was not confident Wanaka Airport would
expand as suggested in growth forecasts, without having some
consequence on Queenstown.
"The chamber saw quite strongly their future being in
night-time flights . . . [but] it shouldn't be concluded
there would be no international flights into Queenstown at
night," he said.
Mr Morgan said the airline had reduced its flights into
Wanaka because growth had been "substantially less" than the
cost of providing additional services.
Only when load factors reached adequate levels would
additional frequencies be resumed, using the 19-seater Beech
Mr Morgan declined to reveal the airline's present loads
because the Otago Daily Times was present at the
hearing but he undertook to provide the figure confidentially
to the commissioners.
The commissioners asked Mr Beattie how the Queenstown Lakes
District Council could justify a business case for capital
spending on two international airports just one hour's drive
Mr Beattie said both airports were critical assets and needed
to have a mutual understanding of each other's objectives.
The consequence of not investing in Wanaka would cost the
community more, things were "pretty tough" and the chamber
would not shy away from entering debate about the region's
future, he said.
"We will not be forgiven by future generations with interests
in Wanaka if by our lack of foresight today we fail to take
full advantage of the opportunity to plan for and designate
an airport capable of taking future jet aircraft," Mr Beattie