Neutrality on Tarras airport affirmed

Executives proposing an airport in Central Otago ran something of a charm offensive, documentation appears to show.

However, the Central Otago District Council (CODC) affirmed the importance of the council remaining objective about the proposal.

Christchurch International Airport Ltd bought 750ha of land near Tarras in Central Otago in 2020 and discussions have been held since about what has been described as an opportunity to create "one of the most sustainable airports in the world" and a vital piece of infrastructure for the decades ahead.

As of July 2020, $45million had been spent on the project.

Near the end of last year, it had still not been established precisely where the runway would be and the preferred alignment was expected to be identified early this year.

In the meantime, the airport company has made a formal submission to the Otago Regional Council about the status of airports in regional policy.

It also engaged with the Central Otago District Council, often less formally.

Ten meetings were held involving airport and council senior staff between July 1, 2020, and November 16, 2022, information released by the council shows.

Several were held at cafes and restaurants in Cromwell, Wanaka and Alexandra.

Council chief executive Sanchia Jacobs was at one point invited by Tarras project leader Michael Singleton to a resort in Cromwell to "share a CODC perspective with the team" at an informal catch-up.

Correspondence and information released to the Otago Daily Times does not show she took up the offer.

The council reaffirmed it has no position on the proposed airport at Tarras.

The airport company has described itself as an organisation with a long-term vision and a focus on supporting social and economic outcomes for the South Island.

It characterised Central Otago and Queenstown-Lakes as fast-growing areas.

"The provision of domestic and international connectivity is an important driver of social and economic prosperity in the region, and that cannot be maximised within existing airport constraints at Queenstown, which is forecast to reach its current capacity limits within the next 10 years," the airport told the regional council.

Developing an airport at Tarras could meet regional needs for 50 years, the airport company said.