Aero club pleads for its future

If the Queenstown Airport Corporation does not renew a lease for the Wakatipu Aero Club this year, the 45-year-old club will be forced to close.

At Thursday's full Queenstown Lakes District Council meeting in the resort, club president Adrian Snow said the airport had given notice it would not offer a new lease when the current one expired in June.

''QAC state that they expect [the club] to split into two divisions, leaving air transport at Queenstown and taking flight training and private flying to Wanaka.

''We have investigated the feasibility of relocating flight training to Wanaka, as suggested by QAC, but with three flight training operations already established at Wanaka, it is not feasible for a fourth organisation to operate at this airport,'' Mr Snow said.

''Should [the club] attempt to operate from Wanaka, it is inevitable that one or two of those four operations will commercially fail.

''With access to Queenstown denied, [the club] will be forced to close.''

Last week the Mountain Scene reported the Lucas Place-based club, which dates back to the 1930s, faced an uncertain future without a lease extension.

Airport chief executive Scott Paterson said that was because the airport was running out of room and needed the club's site for further expansion - possibly for car parking.

It also needed Lot 6, owned by Remarkables Park Ltd, to relocate the commercial general aviation industry and establish a permanent private jet terminal.

The land is subject to ongoing court proceedings. The airport's draft statement of intent, also presented yesterday, said a decision on that was ''unlikely'' before year end. Hearings are set down for June and November.

However, Mr Snow said the airport's decision was at odds with its strategic objectives under its SOI - to be an ''outstanding corporate citizen'' and make a positive difference to the region - and it was at odds with the council's obligations under the Local Government Act, given the airport was a council-controlled trading organisation.

''QLDC is not just a shareholder, it does have a legislated responsibility to ensure community social interests are met by the asset that its CCTO controls and then ensure that the CCTO does meet its obligations to provide to such community interests.''

He asked for the council to ask the airport board to reassess several aspects of the club and its decision regarding the lease.

That included reassessing the community and social contributions the club made and the value of the safety component offered to local area operations by the club which was of ''high value, if not critical, to regional air transport operations''.

tracey.roxburgh@odt.co.nz

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