Not time to do nothing

Wanaka Airport — what does the future hold? PHOTO: SIMON HENDERSON
Wanaka Airport — what does the future hold? PHOTO: SIMON HENDERSON
Often, in a list of recommendations put forward by local body officers to their elected leaders, there is a "do nothing" or "status quo" option.

It is the officers’ pro-forma, default setting and, one suspects, it is a rare politician who ever really thinks doing nothing is the best option.

That is the way of a young country, where progress requires doing something.

So, of the four scenarios examined by consultants MartinJenkins to help the Queenstown Lakes District Council find the way ahead for air traffic to the district, the do nothing option would seem to have little in the way of chutzpah to attract councillors busy running a busy, progressive district.

Something always needs to be done and, well, doing nothing is almost an insult.

In this case, the something might be a brand new $1billion airport on a greenfields site or a $400million redevelopment of Wanaka Airport.

MartinJenkins wisely ducked the fraught business of picking a preferred option — leaving those who can be bothered to wade through their 236-page report to find the bits to support their own preferred option.

Many current district residents make no bones about what they think, but what of the views of those who will inherit the decisions made today?

The only clue provided by MartinJenkins comes from 22 people aged under 15 who took part in their survey.

This group had the highest proportion (62%) with a negative view of airport infrastructure as it affects environmental and social matters, were 100% against development of Wanaka Airport, and were more positive than others about the status quo scenario.

That scenario would mean a small increase in scheduled services to Queenstown Airport and no development at Wanaka.

By 2050 — when those young people are running the show — the do nothing now scenario would leave 1.68 million tourists each year being forced to drive to Queenstown from Christchurch, Dunedin or Invercargill Airports rather than fly direct.

Airlines, according to MartinJenkins would likely increase fares to Queenstown.

Some stakeholders noted rising travel costs had a potential positive impact of attracting a more boutique, higher value visitor to the district although MartinJenkins predicted less visitor money flowing into the economy, less investment in tourism-related businesses and lower increases in productivity.

From the perspective of the region beyond Queenstown, it would have been of interest if the MartinJenkins report had said where it thinks the money, the investment and the productivity might go.

Perhaps, if the report was being paid for by the Invercargill or Dunedin councils, MartinJenkins might have had more to say.

Local body politicians faced with the consequences of Covid-19 have some tough calls to make as the airport debate rolls on, and there looks certain to be plenty more time to consider the options.

But, if the views of the young people surveyed by MartinJenkins are a guide, perhaps the bravest, most acceptable course for a local politician hoping for a statue in the square, might be the do nothing option.



this opinion piece seems to lack an author tag is this intentional?, I am wondering if they are associated with QAC?, as this reads like some of QAC justification for growth. The report clearly states that there is strong opposition to further development from all sectors of the community young and old Wanaka and QT

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