Search for airport firm’s studies on sites fruitless

After months of digging for Queenstown Airport Corporation (QAC) studies done, but not made public, on alternative sites for Queenstown Airport, Frankton resident John Hilhorst has come up empty-handed.

Mr Hilhorst, who is a member of the Flightpath 2050 group pushing for the airport to be relocated, began his search in April using the Local Government Official Information Act.

He asked the QAC for all information on its studies of alternative airport sites before its decision to progress its dual Queenstown-Wanaka Airport proposal.

In response, general manager corporate and community affairs Sara Irvine said late last month the QAC had carried out ‘‘an extensive review of correspondence, information, and documents’’.

‘‘Queenstown Airport Corporation remains confident that, in relation to the potential option of relocating Queenstown Airport, the information provided to you, and publicly released, provides a full account of the process and analysis that was undertaken.’’

Mr Hilhorst said that showed the QAC did ‘‘no analysis of alternative sites outside the dual airport scenario’’.

‘‘That’s the big bit, and there is no background work other than the 12-page [Arup] report.’’

In June, the QAC released the report from Australian consultants Arup, along with other more historic documents.

The Arup report listed 20 possible airport sites — including Gore, Cromwell racecourse, Ranfurly, Hawea Downs and Millers Flat — but concluded the best option was the dual Queenstown-Wanaka airports arrangement.

Mr Hilhorst and others believe the QAC gave too little consideration to moving Queenstown Airport and did not investigate better sites at Tarras, Maori Point and Lowburn, not listed by Arup.

‘‘There was no financial evaluation, no assessment of cost recovery, or any analysis at any level beyond superficial.’’

After much public debate, last month Queenstown Lakes District mayor Jim Boult announced consultants MartinJenkins would carry out economic, social and environmental impact assessments of expanding Queenstown Airport's noise boundaries and introducing commercial passenger services in Wanaka.

Included in the work would be consideration of a ‘‘new greenfield airport’’.

Mr Hilhorst likened the Queenstown Airport issue to the Auckland debate over moving the city’s port; an example of where ‘‘historical, legacy infrastructure might not be in the right place’’.

‘‘There should come a time in the Wakatipu when we realise that the airport actually isn’t in the right place, and the sooner we [realise that], the better.

‘‘If we refuse to consider it, then that’s got to be pretty dumb in my book.’’


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