Environmental protections watering down claimed

A composite image depicts a plane landing in the area in Tarras being looked at for a new airport. MAGE: MAT PATCHETT / ODT
A composite image depicts a plane landing in the area in Tarras being looked at for a new airport. MAGE: MAT PATCHETT / ODT
Opponents of a proposed airport at Tarras are accusing Christchurch International Airport of trying to dilute environmental protections.

The airport has made a submission on the Otago Regional Council’s draft regional policy statement and has asked it make some amendments.

Stop Central Otago Airport spokeswoman Zella Downing said the group believes the airport was going "under the radar" and attempting to water down environmental protections.

"We are vehemently opposed to this move by the CIAL," she said.

Sustainable Tarras chairman Chris Goddard said if the proposed amendments were accepted it would create more favourable development conditions to the detriment and "permanent harm" of the environment.

It would also cause "inevitable conflict" between communities, he said.

In counter-submissions, those opposed have focused on four of the airport’s suggested amendments.

These relate to the hierarchy of decision-making priorities, human impacts of development, locating and managing effects of infrastructure, and maintaining indigenous biodiversity.

The airport is a subsidiary of the Christchurch City Council’s holding company. It owns 750ha of farm land at Tarras and is an ORC ratepayer.

Project director Mike Singleton said there had been a misunderstanding about the regional council planning process.

"The reality is we are one of more than 300 submitters on the regional policy statement.

"This was an open public consultation process — we made no attempt to conceal our submission, which is on the council’s website. To suggest we tried to sway the council and went under the radar is simply incorrect.”

The airports’s submission sought about 40 amendments, as well as objectives and policies that "encourage and support" future significant infrastructure.

It also wanted policies that provided for investments to allow the region to adjust to climate change.

It has asked for one policy be deleted entirely — related to avoiding effects of development — and for the council to instead use the words "avoid, mitigate and remedy".

Mr Singleton said the draft regional policy statement was not about whether an airport could be developed.

Other organisations that operated significant regional infrastructure, such as ports, state highways and electricity supply, had also made submissions, he said.

"The airport intended to complete and release its study of the environmental impacts of the proposed airport in 2022," he said.

The regional council will prepare a summary of all submissions for a future hearing.

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