Time to think far smarter on Central airport future [Otago Daily Times, 13/08/20]

Letter to the Editor

I wish to point out an issue with Bruce Munro’s otherwise excellent article, “Tarras International Airport — genius or madness?” (ODT, 8.8.20) about the proposed airport near Wanaka.

Taupo-based economist Anthony Byett correctly states that the biggest hurdle Christchurch International Airport faces with an airport at Tarras is ‘‘social licence’’. But for your journalist to imply that there is a social licence in Wanaka for a jet-capable airport ignores widespread community opposition to such a proposal.

The scale and strength of opposition to the development of Wanaka Airport into a jet-capable airport is unprecedented in the Upper Clutha. This, coupled with a sizeable chunk of the community (over 3400 members of Wanaka Stakeholders Group) taking the Queenstown Lakes District Council and Queenstown Airport Corporation to the High Court for judicial review of key decisions around the future of the airport, is evidence enough that social licence is a real and significant problem in Wanaka, too.

Indeed, the much criticised MartinJenkins airport assessment published in June, although suspiciously over-positive about expanding jet capacity into the region, confirms exactly what we already knew: the survey of many thousands of locals conducted by the Wellington-based consultancy shows an overwhelming reaction from both the Wanaka and Queenstown communities against further significant development or expansion of either airport, and instead depicts a population strongly in favour of the status quo.

The Upper Clutha community, the QLDC district and the Otago region should not have its future determined by the single-minded profit aspirations of volume-driven airport companies. We deserve better than airport turf wars. It’s time for more intelligent foresight into the future of tourism and air travel.

Sally Currie



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