Residents fear airport concerns falling on deaf ears

Most protesters were there to make a point about climate change. Photo: Mark Price
Most protesters were there to make a point about climate change. Photo: Mark Price
Upper Clutha community leaders fighting plans to introduce jet services at Wanaka Airport came out of a focus group meeting last night expressing fears their views will be ignored.

The meeting was part of public consultation being run by consultants MartinJenkins for the Queenstown Lakes District Council.

It attracted a crowd of more than 50 protesters with placards, a fire engine and speakers playing the sound of a 747 aircraft taking off. Most protesters were there to make a point about climate change.

MartinJenkins has been instructed by the council to prepare economic and social impact assessments of proposals for Queenstown and Wanaka Airports.

Lack of an environmental assessment was a major concern for Wanaka Stakeholders Group chairman Michael Ross, who attended the meeting.

"The big question is about the environment, and they haven’t got the environment as part of the brief.

"That in itself basically destroys the outcome of the work they are here to do."

Lake Hawea Community Association chairwoman Cherilyn Walthew said the consultants directed them to a number of scenarios that seemed pre-determined "and there just wasn’t enough thought put into them".

The scenarios included a new greenfields airport, sharing air traffic with Invercargill and Dunedin Airports and the preferred option of the council-owned Queenstown Airport Corporation of a dual Queenstown-Wanaka operation.

"What I got from that meeting was that everything’s still on the table," Ms Walthew said.

Mt Barker Residents Association chairman Jerry Rowley said the consultants did not reject the suggestion Wanaka could become the commercial airport for the entire district.

"The eventual scenario of Queenstown closing and Wanaka carrying all the passengers is a very real one."

Mr Rowley said the consultants had heard his group’s message.

"I’m not sure if they were listening."

Albert Town Community Association chairman Jim Cowie said Albert Town and Luggate were directly under the proposed flight path and were being asked to "share the burden" of jet air traffic.

Luggate Community Association chairman Graeme Perkins said he was not 100% sure his community’s voice was "getting through".


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