Airport investment thumbs-up

Central Otago District Council property and facilities manager Mike Kerr in front of the...
Central Otago District Council property and facilities manager Mike Kerr in front of the Alexandra airport terminal and apron. PHOTO: PAM JONES
Almost half a million dollars invested in Alexandra's airport is money well spent, Central Otago District Council (CODC) property and facilities manager Mike Kerr says.

The money is paying for infrastructure upgrades: power and water for 25 private hangar sites, resealing of the apron, and 700m of taxiways.

The work will cost $429,000 and the final stages of the two-year project will be completed within the next six months.

"Then Alexandra is really going to start looking like a regional airport,'' Mr Kerr said.

The Alexandra airport was becoming increasingly attractive to aviation users as space became more limited at Queenstown and Wanaka airports and people realised the attractions of the Alexandra area, he said.

Investment at the Alexandra airport was set to continue; another $450,000 was budgeted to reseal the airport's runway in 2018-19, Mr Kerr said.

The $429,000 first stage amounted to a $130,000 overspend of council money but that was approved by the council's water and property infrastructure committee last month, after Mr Kerr told committee members the investment would pay off.

It had allowed the creation of the 25 lots for hangars and accommodation at the airport, and the leases for those would create income for the airport and mean it would be self-sustaining by 2020, Mr Kerr said.

Rather than the airport costing ratepayers to run, as it did at present (a "modest'' $24,000 year), it would then start making a surplus and return money to ratepayers, he said.

Twenty-four of the 25 hangar sites were already leased or signed up and he expected construction of all remaining hangars to be completed within six months, Mr Kerr said.

Some are hangars only and others include accommodation. Almost all had been bought by out-of-town aviation enthusiasts who had signalled they would spend either short or extended holiday breaks there, Mr Kerr said.

Some were expected to live several months of the year there, splitting their time between Alexandra and other bases.

The extra visitors and part-time residents were expected to have significant financial benefits for the region, Mr Kerr said.

"The airport itself is never going to make a lot of money, but it's going to have flow-on benefits for the Alexandra economy.''

The hangars were all private ones, but commercial development at the 80ha airport could come later on, Mr Kerr said.

A "master plan'' for the airport's future growth was being prepared, and would identify where other development should occur.

Options included private jet parking, plane-servicing operations, flight schools, warehouses and large hangars to be used by fruit exporters.

A new airport zoning would also be proposed in the the CODC's district plan review, Mr Kerr said.


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