Runway options for proposed Tarras airport released

Two runway alignment options for the proposed Tarras Airport have been released, confirming the towns of Cromwell or Hawea Flat could eventually be under the flight paths of narrow and wide-body jets and other aircraft.

While yesterday’s release of preliminary aeronautical studies is ‘‘simply a small step forward’’ for developer Christchurch International Airport Ltd, there are many questions being asked in local communities about environmental impacts.

CIAL’s information was meant to be released by August 31 but was delayed by Covid-19 restrictions.

Sustainable Tarras is waiting for community survey results before it confirms the extent of local opposition or support.

The group’s chairman, Chris Goddard, said yesterday the runway options raised complex issues about how the proposed airport could co-exist with other land and airspace users, especially vineyards and Wanaka Airport operators.

‘‘This will certainly give the Tarras community fuel for thought on what their concerns actually will be,’’ Mr Goddard said.

Environmental sustainability, the carbon footprint and birdstrike would also be big issues, he said.

‘‘The Lake Dunstan orientation puts them slap bang in the middle of crossing a bird sanctuary at the confluence of the Clutha River and the Lake Dunstan edge,’’ he said.

CIAL project leader Michael Singleton said CIAL would spend the next six to nine months validating the research before confirming a preferred runway option.

CIAL and its consultant Airbiz identified each alignment option could ‘‘achieve’’ a 2.2km runway — the minimum necessary for safe and efficient operation.

This was a key finding but ‘‘simply a small step forward for the project’’, Mr Singleton said.

Each alignment also offered the ‘‘possibility’’ of a runway up to 3km, which needed to be explored further.

‘‘A single 2.2km runway would be able to serve all of New Zealand’s domestic routes and some short-haul destinations such as from Australia and parts of the Pacific. In general, a longer runway creates more opportunity . . . Our job is to think long-term and identify what opportunities this site could deliver well into the future,’’ Mr Singleton said.

Asked by the Otago Daily Times if the alignments conflicted with Wanaka Airport operations, Mr Singleton said Aeropath Ltd would do more detailed work about that.

Aeropath is owned by Airways New Zealand, the country’s air navigation service provider.

Wanaka Airport is uncontrolled airspace.

Whether Wanaka remains uncontrolled is a decision for Airways and the Civil Aviation Authority, after community consultation.

CIAL had yet to study birdstrike risks and was aware wildlife issues got a lot of attention in planning processes, Mr Singleton said.

Cromwell Community Board chairwoman Anna Harrison said neither she nor the board had formed a view on the runway alignments but they were aware of the potential for strong opinions.

‘‘There is a whole lot more information we need as a community board before we take an actual position,’’ she said.


‘‘But the Cromwell Community Board may not be in a position to take a position because we are part of the Central Otago District Council . . . and if [the council] is authorised under the Resource Management Act process and it goes through a hearing, we have to be very careful about what we say,’’ Mrs Harrison said.

Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult was not having a bar of a Tarras airport.

‘‘Our community has made it perfectly clear it doesn’t want long haul, wide-bodied aircraft flying into our part of the world. I am dismayed that CIAL continue to pursue it,’’ he said.

Stop Central Otago Airport spokeswoman Zella Downing, of Hawea Flat, said group membership was ‘‘800 and growing’’.

The group needed to assess CIAL’s documents before making a comment, she said.

CIAL has set a deadline of 2023 to complete additional planning and validation research before deciding whether to seek operational and planning approval.

 

 

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