Queenstown Airport plans questioned

Jules Tapper.
Jules Tapper.
Veteran Queenstown aviator Jules Tapper questions the wisdom of planning even for 5.1 million passenger movements at Queenstown Airport by 2045.

He said it was a ''huge increase'' on current passenger movements and suggested the Queenstown Airport Corporation (QAC) might be ''biting off a bit more than it can chew''.

There were already infrastructure problems surrounding the airport, and he cited an online poll conducted by the Crux website showing 84% of 500 respondents were against the expansion of Queenstown Airport.

Mr Tapper had no doubt Wanaka Airport would be brought into play at some point.

''What you've got there is just a piddly wee airport.

''The runway for example has only just been wanged down ... it's never had major work done on the foundations.

''If you had heavier aircraft like the jets, they would have to put a whole new runway in and extend it as well because it's relatively short.''

He suggested the QAC's first step might be to open up Wanaka Airport for ATRs, which could use the existing runway.

''The only other way would be to really grasp the nettle and spend millions and millions of dollars extending the runway now on the chance that the airlines would guarantee to put in a service and then hope ... it worked out, because imagine if it took five or six years before you were getting any sort of a payback on it.

''That would be pretty hard going.''

The QAC told the Otago Daily Times in June that as part of its consultation over the future of Wanaka Airport it would begin having ''conversations'' with airlines at the end of this year.

The ODT was also told Air New Zealand would begin flying jets into Wanaka ''this summer'' if it was able to receive them - which it is not.

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