QAC goes to next level: misleading the public yet again about Wanaka Airport plans

It appears that Queenstown Airport Corporation’s PR department is now feeling the pressure of opposition building rapidly in the Wanaka community.  But unfortunately that means that they’re prepared to go on record misleading the public in order to attempt to quell opposition.

This week, our Chair wrote an open letter to Government, questioning how QAC’s development plans for Wanaka Airport tallied with central Government plans for regional development, tourism and the environment.  You can read the full letter here.  The letter was reported by the Wanaka Sun and the ODT.  In yesterday’s ODT article, Sara Irvine, QAC’s newly appointed General Manager of Corporate and Community Affairs stated that QAC disagreed, saying “We are not planning a large-scale airport at Wanaka Airport”.  She then went to say that Wanaka would be a regional airport, with a domestic schedule from “about 2025”, starting with “approximately five return services per day”.

What Ms Irvine did not disclose is that the $300-400 million planned redevelopment of Wanaka Airport is squarely focussed on picking up the significant passenger movements which Queenstown Airport cannot accommodate.  When you look into QAC’s own projections, the numbers are significant.   The investment they are planning will require a significant amount of activity to show any decent return to shareholders.  The airport they are planning for Wanaka is in fact large-scale. It is twice the area of the airport at Frankton.

QAC have produced and published eye-watering projections for growth in passenger numbers, and has also since confirmed by its proposed Dual Airport Strategy that that Wanaka will take Queenstown’s overflow as the airport in Frankton reaches capacity.  Projections published in the Queenstown Airport Masterplan Options (see page 11) predict that passenger movements into the region should reach 3.2 million by 2025, and 7.1 million by 2045.  Queenstown Airport is currently capped at approximately 3.2 million movements, which suggests that the balance (nearly 4 million passenger movements per annum) will flow through Wanaka.  Wanaka Airport has been confirmed in multiple reports as being perfectly positioned for passenger jets, and one report even suggested 24 hour operations.  QAC recently secured a 100 year lease and double the land area at Wanaka than they have at Frankton. 

Unless Ms Irvine knows of plans for QAC to build a third airport somewhere else in the region, it would appear on the basis of QAC’s own projections and the dual airport strategy (both of which she will be very familiar with) that the intention for Wanaka is indeed for it to be a large-scale operation.  And ultimately twice the size of Queenstown Airport today.

The Wanaka Stakeholders Group is deeply concerned that on top of the lack of proper consultation and transparency, QAC is actively understating the real intentions of their plans for Wanaka. Just 5 flights per day – yeah right! How do you get a return on a $400 million investment from just 5 flights per day?

We’ll be contacting the ODT, and also asking QAC for an explanation.

Meantime, our membership has grown rapidly.  More about that next week, and remember to get your friends, families and neighbours to sign up to join Wanaka Stakeholders Group here.  It’s free and takes less than 60 seconds.

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