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Central Otago’s mayor wants to talk to Air New Zealand about its call for a new major airport outside Queenstown and Wanaka, possibly closer to Cromwell and Alexandra.
The national carrier wants consideration given to establishing an airport to cater to the growth of all domestic and international travel to Otago and the economic health of central Otago.
In a submission on Queenstown Airport’s controversial move to expand its noise boundaries, Air NZ’s chief ground operations officer Carrie Hurihanganui said increases to the noise limits, even with an expanded Wanaka Airport, would not be enough to cater for the expected growth in visitor numbers.
Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan said he was not aware of the submission until he was contacted by the Otago Daily Times yesterday.
He would contact Ms Hurihanganui first thing this morning to discuss the airline’s submission. He could not comment any further until he had more information.
Ms Hurihanganui said Air NZ recognised Queenstown Airport Corporation (QAC) evaluated other sites before finalising its 30-year masterplan last year.
"[However] Air New Zealand considers that options for a central Otago terminal justify further investigation.
"We believe consideration should be given to the establishment of an airport that can cater for the future growth of all domestic and international travel to Otago."
QAC wants the noise boundaries expanded to almost double flight numbers permitted by the present boundaries, enabling 5.1 million passenger movements per year (counting both arrivals and departures), up from 2.05 million.
The airline backed the expanded noise boundaries.
Demand will exceed the current noise boundaries in as little as three years.
As Ms Hurihanganui noted in the submission: "Should the noise boundaries not be amended, growth in air services to Queenstown Airport will be effectively capped."
Ms Hurihanganui states this would not restrain total visitor arrivals, as tourists would arrive by road instead.
QAC communications adviser Naomi Lindsay said it "won’t be making specific comments on individual submissions" but acknowledges Air NZ is "an important customer and key airport stakeholder".
QAC has not yet released the number of submissions but hundreds oppose the plans in a community struggling to cope with growth and to fund the infrastructure needed.
The Frankton Community Association found 181 of 221 residents surveyed were "strongly against" the plans, while all 73 residents asked by the Kelvin Peninsula Community Association gave the same response. The noise boundary expansion takes in an extra 3000 homes.
Queenstown alone hosted 3.3 million domestic and international visitors in the 12 months to June — 95 visitors for every resident — although not all arrived by air.
QAC — 75.01% owned by the Queenstown Lakes District Council, 24.99% by Auckland International Airport Ltd — is also working on a masterplan for Wanaka Airport. It signed a 100-year lease on Wanaka Airport with the QLDC earlier this year.
Queenstown Airport is on a site constrained by housing, roads, retail parks, and the Shotover River delta.A new airport near Lumsden, in Southland, about 85km from Queenstown, has been an idea promoted by the likes of Queenstown man Basil Walker for more than 30 years.In its press release accompanying its masterplan release last year, QAC said "relocation of Queenstown Airport to alternative regional sites was evaluated".
"A dual complementary airport model between Queenstown and Wanaka airports was also considered. The dual airport model was viewed as preferable to relocating the airport to a new site."