Court decision `in due course'

Queenstown Airport had its busiest year on record in 2013, with a 5.1% increase in passengers...
Queenstown Airport had its busiest year on record in 2013, with a 5.1% increase in passengers compared with the previous 12 months. Photos by James Beech.
Infrastructure projects for 2014 include upgrades to shopping and food and beverage services. ...
Infrastructure projects for 2014 include upgrades to shopping and food and beverage services. Plans are also under way for a terminal to cater for international passenger growth.

A swathe of prime greenfield land the size of almost 18 football pitches at the heart of Frankton Flats was fought over in the Environment Court in Queenstown last week. James Beech sums up who the combatants are and what they say in the war of words over ''Lot 6''.

What is the issue?

The Queenstown Airport Corporation runs one of the fastest-growing airports on either of the Tasman.

One of its facilities which needs more room is the aviation park for general aviation aircraft, including light civilian and commercial fixed-wing aircraft, plus commercial flightseeing helicopters and corporate jets.

The 19ha of land south of the runway, Lot 6, became the preferred site for the airport's relocation of the aviation park.

The corporation applied to alter its existing aerodrome designation to compulsorily acquire the section, deemed ''nationally significant'' by the Environment Minister in 2011.

What are the problems?

Remarkables Park Ltd, the development company expanding its town centre across 150ha in Frankton, owns Lot 6.

The company wants the notice of requirement cancelled by the Environment Court for several reasons, including its claim the airport does not need the land and can use land already dedicated to the airport to the north of the runway instead for its new aviation park.

There is a ''scarcity of industrial land'' which made the 19ha in dispute valuable for development.

Remarkables Park said it has a ''legitimate expectation'', based on earlier land swap agreements, deeds and contracts, that the greenfield site would remain a ''buffer zone'' between aircraft noise from the runway and the park's noise-sensitive residential and commercial activities.

Lot 6 was to be turned over for recreational or agricultural use where noise would not matter.

However, the corporation's counsel accused Remarkables Park of ''pursuing self-interest, using its claimed power of veto as it chooses'' to dictate the future planning of the airport.

Earlier agreements were not barriers to the statutory responsibilities of the corporation, or the court.

Remarkables Park has not redesigned its Lot 6 land around the designation, since it was aware of the corporation's intentions in 2008 and the notice was issued in 2010.

''Scarcity of industrial land'' was dismissed, as zoning of Frankton Flats did not cater for the airport.

Most operators backed the airport's preference for Lot 6 because they were concerned about the southern wind, helicopters struggling with approaches, fixed-wing aircraft struggling with taxiways and the wash from jet airliners landing and taking off, if they were based to the north.

Who is involved?

Remarkables Park was represented by Royden Somerville QC, of Dunedin. Co-director Alastair Porter, of Frankton, gave evidence and was cross-examined.

Counsel for the airport corporation was Matthew Casey QC, of Auckland. Steve Sanderson, of Wellington, corporation chief executive from 2007 to 2011, gave evidence and was cross-examined.

Air New Zealand was represented and stayed neutral, but counsel James Gardner-Hopkins, of Wellington, urged the court to make a decision soon to minimise delay and uncertainty.

The Queenstown Lakes District Council, the controlling shareholder of the airport, was also present.

What happens next?

Judge Jane Borthwick said the proceedings did stop the parties from mediating an outcome as they had always done before.

Both parties said they were not opposed to negotiation, but the Environment Court became involved when years of talks failed to find a resolution.

The judge said the court could see the options of either confirming or cancelling the airport's notice of requirement, or examining how much Lot 6 land was needed by the corporation.

Separating corporate jet services from general aviation and helicopter services and placing jet operations only on Lot 6, plus the idea of the corporation buying Lot 6 from Remarkables Park were considerations.

The hearing concluded on Thursday and the decision will be issued by the judge ''in due course''.

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