What would this mean for Queenstown and for you?

If our councillors agree to QAC’s expansion plans at Queenstown Airport, we will all be affected. Everyone who lives in or loves Queenstown. And not only us – because decisions made now will have huge impacts on the young people in our lives, and we will be responsible for these irreversible outcomes if we don’t hold QAC and council to account.

  • Planes arriving or leaving every four minutes during peak hours (currently Saturdays and Sundays, 2.30 – 4 PM, just when the kids are playing sport).
  • Five times as many properties – almost 4000 – suffering the interrupted conversations, annoyance and stress that come with being inside QAC’s outer control air noise boundary. This includes most of the Frankton Flats, chunks of Kelvin Peninsula and Frankton Road home owners.
  • And with this, the loss of their development rights. QAC will require, through new district plan rules, that any renovations or new builds include mechanical ventilation so that you can hear each other and get to sleep within your hermetically sealed house. You know that indoor-outdoor flow you had planned? Forget it.  And it will be costing you – because QAC isn’t paying.
  • But money can’t mitigate the impact of increased aircraft noise in our beautiful outdoors. From gardeners to mountain bikers, landscape artists to kayakers, walkers to readers – we will all lose the silence that is an inherent and important part of our natural environment. 
  • Many of our most significant public recreational areas will become much noisier, for longer. Frankton Arm, Frankton Beach, Kelvin Grove, Queenstown Event Centre fields and courts, Frankton recreational reserve, Frankton tennis/hockey courts and golf course, 80% of Queenstown tracks and trails – are within the expanded air noise boundary.
  • Loss of community and residential amenity, as our lives are interrupted more often by aircraft noise and its many downstream effects.
  • The resultant loss of social licence for tourism, the economic backbone of our district, as resentment against the “tourist takeover” grows. Angry communities do not make good hosts.
  • Negative effects on health and our hospital will increase because of more widespread exposure to both aircraft noise and pollution.
  • Effects on our children’s education.  Even if the soundwaves do magically stop at the high school boundary, as QAC’s air noise boundary plan suggests, their outside spaces can’t be soundproofed. Our primary school and preschool children will have their classes and play interrupted.  Already we hear from parents whose children “switch off” from lessons for five minutes or so after their concentration’s been interrupted by the roar of a jet plane. Who came to Queenstown to have their kids educated in a soundproof box?
  • More traffic congestion on our roads as more tourists rent more cars, then have their first NZ driving experience in bottlenecked downtown Queenstown or on the Crown Range, Kawarau Gorge or Devil’s Staircase roads.
  • More infrastructural failures, bottlenecks and costs as our strained infrastructure creaks under more poos, more wastewater, more vehicles, more waste and the need for more drinking water. We currently get around $5 million a year in dividends from QAC – this doesn’t come near the costs of providing for that many more tourists.  And the council’s current $980million 10-Year Plan does not include any allowance for the scale of visitors QAC’s plans propose.
  • Likely loss of that dividend – as QAC borrows around $500 million to develop Wanaka Airport, build a new one in Queenstown and buy land required for ZQN’s new parallel runway.
  • Alternatively, loss of any community/Council control over QAC if they instead seek external funding by selling more shares.  As they did in 2010, without consent of Council, as cited in this Office of the Auditor General report as a case study of how not to run a council-controlled organisation.  Or perhaps this loss of control might be the long-term cost of funding from Bank of China, one of QAC’s three debt facility providers. This is fundamental. QAC’s noise boundary expansion proposal is based on strategic issues that Queenstown Lakes District Council and our community should decide, not QAC’s mainly Auckland-based directors or the Bank of China, behind closed doors.
  • Hypocrisy on QLDC’s Climate and Ecological Emergency Declaration, agreed to by councillors after an Extinction Rebellion presentation at their June 27 meeting. How effective and sincere is this if councillors allow QAC to expand its air noise boundary? 

    The Parliamentary Commissioner of the Environment’s December 2019 report on tourism highlighted that international flights’ share of tourism sector carbon emissions would increase from 27 to 55% between 2018 and 2050, if demand-led growth continued unabated and untrammelled. 

    QAC speaks proudly of its sustainability efforts, using recycled plastic to resurface its runway and electrifying ground transport. But it neither recognises nor takes responsibility for the carbon footprint of planes that land there.

    During the 2019 election campaign, the Mayor said Council would assess environmental as well as social and economic impacts of airport growth. However, this commitment has since reduced to a one-line deliverable: “environmental impacts of airport operations, including consideration of climate change and reputation”. Added council’s mid-January press release: “more detailed assessment of environmental sustainability matters related to airport operations will be covered in Queenstown Airport Corporation’s own sustainability framework.” This relates only to its own business activities, not the planes.  In other words, totally sidestepping responsibility for the real carbon elephant in the atmosphere.

    So impact on Queenstown Lakes District Council’s efforts to reduce climate change gas emissions? Zero.
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