Geography cramps runway at Queenstown Airport

Plans for new runway safety zones at Queenstown Airport are a compromise because of the surrounding geography, the Queenstown Lakes District Council's strategy committee has heard.

Plans for the new zones, which were required under Civil Aviation Authority rules, were unveiled by the airport's management last week.

The new 90m grass zones would provide extra crash-landing space for aircraft overshooting the main runway in emergency situations, as well as those landing short of the runway.

However, speaking at yesterday's committee meeting, Queenstown Airport Corporation (QAC) chief executive Steve Sanderson said the safety zones were the ‘‘minimum'' acceptable to the CAA.

The airport had been granted special concessions by the CAA both in terms of the size of the emergency zones, and the timeframe in which they were to be built.

Zones of 240m were considered ‘‘desirable'' at each end of an international airport's main runway, and they were supposed to be constructed by July 12 this year.

However, QAC had been given until October 12, 2011, to build the zones, he said.

Meanwhile, the proposed changes include the introduction of a new 60Ldn noise boundary, which would extend restricted zones by about 50m-100m around the airport, Mr Sanderson said.

Ldn was an average noise level measured over 24 hours. The new boundary would join two others - 65Ldn and 55Ldn - already enshrined in the council's district plan, if approved, he said.

No noise-sensitive developments, such as hospitals, schools and residential buildings, would be permitted in a zone between the proposed new 60Ldn boundary and the existing 65Ldn boundary, he said.

The proposed changes were expected to be finalised and released for public consultation next month, he said.

However, Mr Sanderson was non-committal when asked if the new noise boundary would have any impact on the planned $8.8 million Frankton primary school.

It was not yet known if the extended noise restriction boundaries would encompass the school's proposed Grant Rd site, adjacent to the airport.

‘‘I'm probably being a bit evasive, but the answer is it [the work] is not complete,'' Mr Sanderson said. In November, the Ministry of Education lodged a notice for 3ha of land on Grant Rd - on the airport's boundary - to be designated for educational use with Lakes Environmental.

During a review of noise boundaries, the QAC found the proposed site was subjected to 100 decibel blasts of noise 39 times each day, during aircraft take-off and landing movements.

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