Bid for more night flights

Allowing night flights to arrive in Queenstown would boost the Otago economy by $39.4 million a year and create employment for 665 workers, a plan change hearing was told in Queenstown yesterday.

The Queenstown Airport Corporation (QAC) is seeking a plan change and a notice of requirement to expand the Air Noise Boundary and Outer Control Boundary and to allow night flights to arrive in Queenstown between 10pm and midnight to allow for tourism growth to 2037.

Independent research consultant Gregory Akehurst told the hearing allowing 11 international flights a week, carrying about 65,100 people a year, to arrive between 10pm and midnight would increase tourist activity in the resort.

He said the changes were necessary to maximise the economic contribution international tourism made to the region.

The airport contributed about $167.1 million to the regional economy sustaining the equivalent of 2590 full-time workers a year.

He said passenger movements would increase from 652,341 in 2007 to 2 million in 2037.

QAC chief executive Steve Sanderson said there had been 638,000 passengers through the terminal in the nine months to the end of March.

The corporation was spending $8 million constructing the runway and safety areas and over the next five years a capital programme of more than $40 million was planned for runway and apron lights, a new heavy taxi way, new terminal expansion and facilities.

"The current noise boundaries are reaching the end of their capacity.

To facilitate the growing tourism market the airport needs to extend its noise boundaries.

Strategically it also needs to be able to extend its operating hours to allow for a limited number of scheduled flight arrivals between 10pm and midnight, to capture the Australian market and allow holiday makers to maximise their vacation, rather than losing valuable time travelling during the day.

"Capping the number [of] flights in Queenstown at current capacity would seriously affect the local economy."

The corporation was committed to an estimated $5 million compensation package for those affected residential properties within the new boundaries.

"I acknowledge the concern of those affected residents about the lack of detail and finality about the mitigation package but the reality is we are unable to finalise this matter until we are further down the process and know exactly which properties are included and to what extent."

The corporation did not have an "open cheque book" and the compensation would increase the company's debt by 13%, he said.

Lawyer for QAC Amanda Dewar said the corporation was preparing an updated Noise Management Plan to address the effects of aircraft noise on properties within the boundaries.

The hearing before commissioners Bob Batty, David Clarke and Stephen Childs continues today, when QAC will present evidence on noise, navigation and health effects of the changes.

The council's senior policy analyst, Karen Page, was highly critical of the proposals in her report to the commissioners.

She recommended they accept submissions that night-time flights should be rejected and said the hearing should be adjourned, because QAC did not provide enough information for the commissioners to make an informed decision.

Of 92 submissions, 24 supported, eight partly supported, and 60 opposed the plan change.

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