The Mayor’s fog about Tarras [Wanaka Sun, 20/08/20]

Wānaka resident and jet pilot Terry Hetherington.

Letter to the editor:

I was surprised to read mayor Jim Boult’s opinion article about the proposed Tarras Airport last week. Not just because he now suddenly appears to subscribe to most of the arguments against a jet airport at Wanaka, but also because of his frankly bizarre comments about fog at Tarras.

Jim is a self professed “airport man”. As ex-CEO of Christchurch International Airport he has far more knowledge than most of us about what makes airports tick. Runways, terminals and yes, airport technology.  You can’t run a sizeable airport and not understand these things. As mayor of QLDC, he will have also had numerous conversations about the challenges which weather creates at the current airport at Frankton.

“Fog and airports do not make happy bed mates” writes Jim. That’s true. Yet it is well known within the aviation industry that technology exists to enable jets to land in fairly thick fog on longer runways. Runways of the length proposed in Tarras. The technology allows jets to land quite safely in as little as 75 meters of visibility.  Auckland Airport already has this technology in place, and all pilots flying commercial jets in and around New Zealand are trained to use the tech.

In fact, I read in the ODT this morning that the Christchurch Airport company which Jim recently ran is actively looking at that technology for Tarras. No surprises there.

So why would our mayor make it appear that Tarras fog is an impediment to aviation? Why even mention it?

It’s important as we discuss and debate airports for our community and indeed for the whole of Otago that we step away from political smoke and mirrors and self interest. If Jim Boult doesn’t want an airport at Tarras because it upsets his plans for expansion of airports on his mayoral turf, he should just come out and say so. And then let’s have a proper discussion about what is best for region.

Terry Hetherington

Read this in the Wanaka Sun here.

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