Greenfield airport an option

Jim Boult.
Jim Boult.
The idea of building a new international airport for the Lakes District appears to be up for investigation.

Yesterday, the group pushing for Queenstown Airport to be shifted from Frankton took heart from a single clause in a document issued by the Queenstown Lakes District Council.

The council's ''request for proposal'' (RFP), published on the Government's electronic tender service system, seeks consultants to assess the social and economic effects of airport development.

Under a section called ''airport scenarios'', moving the airport is listed as an ''alternative scenario'' to the proposals put forward by the Queenstown Airport Corporation (QAC).

The clause reads: ''development of a new greenfield airport (out of district) and the associated closure of Queenstown Airport and no development at Wanaka Airport''.

That is what Queenstown's Flightpath 2050 group has been pushing for, and member David Jerram said yesterday moving the airport was ''at least mentioned and not specifically excluded, as had been recently stated''.

On August 14, a council spokesman told the Otago Daily Times the assessments would look at the economic and social effects of the current [QAC] plans ''rather than pursue more extreme suggestions such as relocating Queenstown Airport''.

Asked yesterday if the greenfields clause in the RFP indicated a change of stance, Mayor Jim Boult said the clause did not ''signal any change in position ... rather a desire to ensure that a range of options are independently investigated and objectively assessed from an economic, social and environmental perspective.

''... any change in position at this stage would be preempting the assessment's findings and recommendations.''

Two QAC proposals are listed - expanding the air noise boundaries at Queenstown Airport to accommodate a maximum of 5.2million passenger movements, and development of Wanaka Airport for domestic services ''initially'', with ''capacity for internationally capable jet services in the future''.

Two other alternatives are listed: distributing flights to Christchurch, Dunedin and Invercargill Airports with ''little or no growth'' at Queenstown or Wanaka Airports, and no growth at Queenstown Airport and development of commercial flights at Wanaka Airport.

Mr Jerram said the importance of the greenfield alternative being in the document came down to a scenario where
it was considered growth
should be constrained at Queenstown Airport and stopped at Wanaka.

''If you do that, then the region's got a problem and therefore you could look at doing an alternative airport.

''I don't know whether we are right or not about an alternative airport as the way to go ... but someone needs to look at it professionally.''


Good luck thinking you can re-distribute passengers from Queenstown to Dunedin or Invercargill. The reason Queenstown airport has grown so fast is that people on short holidays simply don't have time to land in one place and waste half a day to bus or drive to their destination.

A totally new airport is going to upset someone. But so too will growing Wanaka airport and keeping Queenstown open. If a new airport is built it will need to be central to the whole lakes district and the existing Wanaka and Queenstown airports will need to be closed. A tough sell all round, but in the long term would probably deliver the best result. And for the least money over all.