Backing for airport opposition welcomed

The Wanaka Stakeholders Group (WSG) is hailing the "clear, unequivocal and united" opposition of the town’s district councillors to the development of more jet-capable airports in the region.

The group, which has about 3500 members, said in a statement yesterday it was "delighted" by the responses of Queenstown Lakes deputy mayor Calum Macleod and councillors Niamh Shaw and Quentin Smith to a letter it sent last month.

The letter, also sent to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, MPs, local councillors, Christchurch City councillors and others, asks the recipients to say whether they think jet-capable airports are desirable in Wanaka and Tarras.

The letter, which was supported by six community groups in the Upper Clutha, effectively says the global climate change crisis demands the Government put a stop to any new jet airport proposals.

In his reply, published on the group’s website, Cr Macleod said there was "ample airport capacity" in the South Island, particularly if the Government set a limit for inbound tourist numbers.

Building more jet-capable airports was inconsistent with the country’s climate change goals, and he suggested the Government buy all the country’s airports to prevent internal competition.

In her reply, Cr Shaw said there was no compelling case for expanding the country’s airport infrastructure given the climate change crisis.

She wanted the Government to strategically manage the country’s airports with the goal of reducing aircraft emissions and the carbon footprint of international visitors.

Cr Smith said it would be "irresponsible" to develop any more jet-capable airports because of the effects on New Zealand communities and infrastructure, and the need to reduce emissions.

Tourism was having an adverse impact before Covid-19, so any increase in aircraft capacity would be "somewhat devastating to the New Zealand way of life".

WSG chairman Michael Ross said he was delighted by the three councillors’ statements.

"Against the background of climate change and concerns about both our environment and local community, it is a very positive step that our councillors have chosen to make these unequivocal statements."

Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult did not wish to comment on the group’s statement.

The group says the Queenstown Airport Corporation wants to spend more than $400million on extending Wanaka Airport’s runway to make it jet-capable.

Christchurch International Airport, which is majority-owned by the Christchurch City Council, has spent $45million buying 750ha of Tarras farmland with the aim of developing an international airport.

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