We Love Wakatipu challenges airport consultation process

Editorial

2 March 2020 by We Love Wakatipu Inc chair Cath Gilmour

The countdown is on for us all to have our say about whether we want turbo-charged growth at Queenstown Airport (QAC) with all its downstream ramifications. Or not. Council has commissioned MartinJenkins to do economic and social impact assessments, including community ‘consultation’. The same consultants wrote council’s ‘Sustaining Tourism Growth in Queenstown’ 2018 report, saying airport investment was required. Hmmmm…

We Love Wakatipu Inc is one of many who have raised serious concerns about the validity, objectivity, transparency and robustness of this process. These have not been addressed by council or MartinJenkins. Yet we’re encouraging people to take part in this fundamentally flawed process – because it’s our best chance to get our community’s voice heard.

Even our councillors don’t know the economic impacts of QAC’s preferred strategy (to allow 7.1million people/year by expanding the air noise boundary (ANB) and developing Wanaka Airport) because they’ve not seen QAC’s business plan. Council’s 2018-28 plan is based on no ANB expansion, so assumes $71 million in QAC dividends and no spend on roads, water, sewerage pipes, etc, to support QAC expansion.

No one knows how QAC would finance their $500million-plus plan. Bank of China is one of their three funding banks. What happens if QAC runs into problems? Might QAC sell more shares, like they did in 2010, so that QLDC loses its controlling shareholding? The first victim of QAC debt servicing would be our dividend, leaving QLDC to find funds elsewhere for the infrastructural needs QAC externalises onto our community. Council’s CFO claims they can’t quantify these costs.

MartinJenkins consultation offers four ‘airport scenarios’ to respond to. Unfortunately, the option likely to find favour with residents on both sides of the Crown Range – no expansion of the ANB and no jets to Wanaka – isn’t included. Nor is relocation of the airport, proposed almost a year ago by FlightPlan2050 to free up valuable airport land for high-density urban development. Instead MartinJenkins suggests building a third airport… well, that’s a no-flyer.

One vital factor has been kept under the radar: QAC’s plans totally ignore the huge potential growth within the existing ANB offered by increased plane capacity and air noise reduction technology.

A321s have 25% greater capacity than A320s. Jetstar will use them here this winter. Air NZ have them. There’s already technology that cuts airplane noise by up to 75%. I bet airlines would use both if QAC stipulated they couldn’t land here otherwise. Millions more could come in with quieter planes. If councillors say yes to QAC noise expansion, that’s goodbye to any control over our growth.

Find out more or join us at: protectqueenstown.nz or Facebook@WeLoveWakatipu.

Link to LWB

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