Decision dismays skydive company

NZone's bid to increase its skydiving capacity by operating more flights has been refused by the Environment Court, leaving the company ''incredibly disappointed''.

In his decision, Judge Jon Jackson said overall the proposal was likely to ''lead to a serious reduction'' in the recreational amenities of NZone's immediate neighbours compared with what is presently allowed for under the company's 1997 consent.

Skydive Queenstown Ltd, trading as NZone, was New Zealand's first professional tandem skydiving operation when it began in 1990 and the application to replace its existing consent sought permission to operate more than its consented 35 flights per day from the airstrip at Remarkables Station near the Jacks Point residential development.

A statement from NZone said the company was ''incredibly disappointed with the result of the recent Environment Court hearing, with the court finding noise from the flightpath to be intimidating and that the residents of Jacks Point had a right to expect that there would be no incremental effects beyond the original consent to operate that was granted in 1997''.

The result of the hearing would not affect NZone's present operation and no decision had been made as to whether NZone would be appealing the court's decision, the statement said.

The skydive company's application to the Queenstown Lakes District Council was publicly notified in May 2012 and attracted 81 submissions.

Skydive Queenstown Ltd then applied to the council to have the application referred direct to the Environment Court, which the council consented to in July 2012.

In the final decision released earlier this month, it was noted that a hearing was held in May 2013 but the court received ''inadequate evidence'' about heights at which the aircraft operated, so in December further evidence was sought and the hearing resumed on May 5, 2014.

Judge Jackson's decision also noted the skydive company had grown since its inception ''to become an important part of Queenstown's appeal as an adventure destination''.

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