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The Queenstown Airport Corporation (QAC) yesterday released a statement about its "current thinking'' on a dual Queenstown-Wanaka Airport arrangement. The QAC is suggesting a "gradual, phased development'' to 2045.
It notes a "significant percentage'' of passenger movements at Queenstown Airport "directly relate'' to people coming from or going to Wanaka and it expects demand will increase.
"With this in mind, we are planning to develop a regional airport at Wanaka that will support scheduled domestic services using turbo-prop (Q300 and ATR) and narrow-body jet (A320/21 and B737) aircraft.
The statement said services would begin with "about a handful'' of flights "and for several years thereafter''.
"We are not planning to accommodate wide-body aircraft or a large international airport at Wanaka Airport.''
Given the planning and construction involved, "it is unlikely that scheduled domestic services would begin at Wanaka Airport before 2025''.
The statement also said the QAC planned to "continue to enable'' general aviation activities and events at the airport.
The QAC has been criticised by Upper Clutha groups over the lack of information it has provided about its plans.
However, in the past few weeks, chief executive Colin Keel has met representatives of the Upper Clutha community, including the Wanaka Stakeholders Group yesterday.
Group convener Michael Ross said after the meeting, "clearly'' the airport development would cater for tourists as well as residents.
"This is the first time really that QAC has come out and quite clearly stated that it's their intention to develop Wanaka Airport for jet-capable scheduled services.''
Previous services were provided by turbo-prop aircraft.
Mr Ross said the Wanaka environment was likely to be "dramatically affected'' by scheduled jet services "because we can only see that as amplifying the growth rates we are already experiencing''.
Discussions with Mr Keel had not dealt with the possibility of scheduled international flights.
"All the statements made to date have been for domestic-only services, and maybe seasonal charter flights.''
The QAC is majority-owned by the Queenstown Lakes District Council and the first indication of the scale of development came from Mayor Jim Boult last week.
Mr Boult said it was "relevant'' that about 400,000 of the passenger movements at Queenstown Airport were Wanaka and Upper Clutha-generated. "Queenstown Airport is not seeking to relocate general tourism traffic to Wanaka but merely for Wanaka to service its own customer base,'' he said.
Yesterday's statement came just hours before a public meeting in Frankton, called to examine the idea of a new airport outside Queenstown and Wanaka - an idea first raised by Air New Zealand.
More than 200 people attended the meeting to hear an alternative "master plan'' for Queenstown Airport requiring it to be shifted and Wanaka Airport not to be developed.
Urban designer David Jerram described the 137ha of land on which Queenstown Airport stands as a "goldmine'', which if developed for housing could net the QAC $1 billion, making a new airport on a greenfield site a lower-debt option than the QAC dual-airport proposal.
He disputed the suggestion a jet airport at Wanaka would cater for 400,000 passenger movements on a few flights per day, claiming Wanaka would end up with twomillion or more.
He considered an independent study was needed.
One resort aircraft operator questioned the idea of moving the airport, saying it would "take the heart out of Queenstown''.