Airport opponent sceptical about new community fund

A compilation photo showing a jet landing where the proposed Tarras airport would be. GRAPHIC:...
A compilation photo showing a jet landing where the proposed Tarras airport would be. GRAPHIC: MAT PATCHETT
Christchurch International Airport has helped establish an annual $30,000 community fund for Tarras, but an opponent of the company’s planned airport says it will have strings attached.

That has been denied by the company, which said it was simply doing the right thing.

The establishment board comprises Tarras residents Pete Jolly, Rachelle Haselgrave, Michelle Dacombe and group spokesman Jonny Trevathan. It has decided to give $20,000 to the Friends of Tarras School.

A committee would be formed to lead the fund’s annual decision-making process, Mr Trevathan said.

The airport company is investigating the possibility of building its second airport at Tarras.

A company spokeswoman said the goodwill contribution reflected its commitment to do the right thing and make a positive contribution to Tarras.

Community groups had approached the airport for funding. So long as it owned Tarras land and was exploring the airport project, the airport would commit $30,000 a year to the community fund, she said.

There was no requirement for the fund committee or applicants to support the airport proposal, she said.

"We know that it’s a really difficult situation, we know we will be criticised.

"There will be those who view this cynically ... but we want to do the right thing," she said.

Mr Trevathan said the establishment group knew the community well and would be able to ensure the fund was set up in a way that reflected Tarras values and put the money where it was needed most.

The airport company said in a newsletter last week the fund was "a no strings attached contribution that will also sit outside any mitigation we may have to make if our project proceeds".

"It’s simply a recognition that Christchurch Airport is a large organisation actively working in Tarras and sees supporting the community as the right thing to do."

The establishment group was working on more details.

Sustainable Tarras chairman Chris Goddard said no-one in the community was complaining about the school receiving support but it was important the money got to "the right spot".

"There will be strings attached," he said.

That was because the airport was 75% owned by Christchurch ratepayers and 25% owned by central government.

Mr Goddard said Sustainable Tarras expected the airport company’s board to keep a close eye on the spending.

"The board needs to be absolutely certain it has gone to the right places to get maximum effects, because it is public funds," he said.

Other projects that could benefit from funding included the Tarras Church (earthquake strengthening) and Tarras Cemetery.




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