What are the solutions?
We Love Wakatipu Incorporated Society’s Protect Queenstown campaign is focused on ensuring our councillors, through their control of Queenstown Airport Corporation’s statement of intent, make clear Queenstown Airport’s air noise boundary will not be extended. Not now, not ever.
The management solutions for operating within this paradigm are for Queenstown Airport Corporation to decide. Its SOI already acknowledges that it can operate profitably within the existing air noise boundary, using existing technology.
But perhaps the first question should be whether there is a problem that requires solving, in terms of room for growth within the existing air noise boundary?
There is still room for some 800,000 more passengers within this. Fleet changes from A320s to A321s by both Jetstar and Air New Zealand can roughly double that again. So that means some 1.6 million more passengers – with no increase in airport noise.
Quieter aircraft are also already available, meaning more flights could be made within the existing air noise boundary. European and American air industries are developing engines and airframes with 70 to 75% noise reduction. So quieter, bigger plans will be able to deliver many, many more visitors within already allowed noise levels.
None of this – much less inevitable future technology improvements – is factored into QAC’s current game plan. Why not aim for smarter growth, not louder?
And the question that both our community and council should be asking is what level of growth is sustainable – for our community, environment and economy?
Increasing debt by at least $500 million, as required under QAC’s current plan, would likely either negate any profit (and therefore community dividend) or require QAC to sell more shares to raise equity – further diluting our community’s control of this vital infrastructure and totally removing our council’s and community’s rights to make the vital strategic decisions that will determine our future.
Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport shows how a successful airport business can be run with flight caps in place.
To only offer one solution to a non-existent problem – as QAC has done to date – is not good management. Nor is it good governance on council’s behalf to accept anything less than a full and independently assessed range of management options to reach their required strategic goals. Of course, they do need to have first defined those strategic goals… (Currently, only 43% of those who arrive in Queenstown Airport stay here – the rest leave for Wanaka, Central Otago, Southland or further afield.)