United against Tarras airport

Barbara Armstrong, of Cromwell, makes a point during a meeting in Tarras last night over the...
Barbara Armstrong, of Cromwell, makes a point during a meeting in Tarras last night over the proposed international airport. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Speakers at a public meeting in Tarras last night were unanimous in their opposition to the idea of an international airport being built in their valley.

From a standing-room-only crowd of about 200, speaker after speaker raised concerns about the effect Christchurch International Airport Ltd’s proposal would have.

An early indication of the tone of the meeting came when chairwoman Shonagh Kenderdine mentioned in her introduction one landowner approached by the company as it was buying up land.

Her mention of "Taffy" (Philip Parcell) "holding out" was met with applause.

A graphic presented to the meeting used the figures of a million passengers per year using the airport, at 10 big aircraft and 3000 passengers a day.

The company had said it was not keen to hold a public meeting, preferring to have "conversations" with individuals. However, company executive Michael Singleton attended and fielded two hours of relatively polite questions.

He pointed out all the company had done so far was spend $45million buying 750ha in the district and that the "conversation" with the local community had only just begun.

The company was "not coming in to ride roughshod" over the community and the airport was not "shovel ready".

There was not yet even a runway alignment, he said. The company was "taking a risk" and there were a lot of hurdles to jump.

He did not expect formal planning to begin for several years. The company was in it for the long haul and could see inter-generational and inter-regional benefits, he said.

Many Tarras residents were taken by surprise last week when the company announced it was planning the airport and there was laughter at the meeting when Mr Singleton referred to the company’s "no surprises" policy. He then clarified that the policy applied to shareholders, who include the Government and the Christchurch City Council’s holding company.

In a series of questions, a resident referring to himself as "Flightpath Charlie" established that apart from shareholders, there appeared to have been no other consultation before the airport announcement was made.

One speaker asked why the company did not work with existing airports, including Invercargill and Dunedin, and went on to describe the Tarras airport idea as "ludicrous" from an environmental point of view, to which Mr Singleton gave no reply.

Viticulturist Robin Dicey described planes as "noisy, smelly, intrusive horrors" and many more people than just those at Tarras would be affected by the airport.

Ms Kenderdine said airport infrastructure should be a "national conversation" and "beautiful places need to be preserved".



Yes, the company did this in secrecy, but that makes sense - This country honours speculation and arbitrage over all else. If word had got out, then every seller would have doubled their asking price, and every land speculator in the country would have been on the way post-haste to beat the Airport though the door. Perhaps the hospital project should have done the same - it would likely have halved their costs.

As to relocating the portal to this country to Tarras, that also makes sound marketing sense. We sell this country to tourists as 'Clean Green New Zealand', with matchingly responsible inhabitants. They arrive with these expectations, and are disgorged into......Christchurch......which, with its disgusting industrial ribbon developments, sprawling settlements of cheesy tin roofed ticky-tack pancakes sweating in the sun, and sinuous motorways now heading everywhere around waste ground, scrap yards and the odd sad derelict and isolated patch of horticultural land, is surely the absolute antithesis of this expectation!! I have lived in America - Moorhouse Avenue is now right up there with the ugliest Florida strips - However, it is not alone in this once fair City.