Group urges shelving of Tarras airport plan

A group of academics has written an open letter opposing plans for an international airport at Tarras.

Christchurch International Airport Ltd owns 750ha of land at Tarras and is expected to decide if it will proceed with plans for a new airport by the end of this year.

The academics say the airport should be shelved because it runs counter to New Zealand's commitment to substantially reduce its carbon emissions.

James Higham, Professor of Sustainable Tourism at the University of Otago, brought the group together, and says he and his peers strongly oppose the airport proposal.

“Given the available research and data - and there is plenty of it - it makes no sense whatsoever to build a new airport at Tarras - or anywhere else in New Zealand for that matter."

The world was on a "very, very tight timeframe'' to cut carbon emissions and the aviation industry was critical to achieving climate goals.

The site of the proposed Tarras airport looking towards Lake Dunstan bounded by State Highway 8 ...
The site of the proposed Tarras airport looking towards Lake Dunstan Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
Building a new airport at Tarras ran contrary to achieving decarbonisation, Prof Higham said. 

The 11 academics, drawn from Otago, Canterbury, Lincoln, Victoria, Massey and Auckland Universities, have expertise in business, economics, climate science, sustainability, Māori and indigenous studies, tourism, the environment and agriculture.

The letter also raises concerns about negative impacts on Central Otago’s environment, flora and fauna, strain on regional infrastructure, impact on local and regional communities, wider economic consequences and the wellbeing of those living locally.

It was sent earlier this week to parties including the  board of Christchurch Airport, the Central Otago District Council and the Otago Regional Council.

Central Otago mayor Tim Cadogan confirmed he received the letter.

"Prior commitments this week have not given me the chance to give the email from Professor Higham due attention. I have set aside time on Friday to read it and consider its contents and will be able to answer questions following that.''