Queenstown Airport’s revised plans on council agenda – time for ‘big reset’ [RNZ, 29/10/20]

Queenstown Lakes councillors will decide today whether to sign off Queenstown Airport’s plans for the next three years.no caption

The impact of Covid has been a huge reduction in the level of Queenstown Airport’s activity, its chair says. (RNZ file pic) Photo: 123RF

Queenstown Airport Corporation has revised its statement of intent in light of the Covid-19 pandemic and will not apply to increase passenger movements at Queenstown Airport or develop Wānaka Airport during the period covered by the statement.

The statement of intent will remain in effect until July 2023.

Both earlier plans had been contentious in the communities concerned, and were shelved following public opposition.

They were only to be canvassed again once the public had been consulted.

The airport’s chair, Adrienne Young-Cooper, said the pandemic had brought them time to better develop any future plans.

“The impact of Covid has been a huge reduction in the level of airport activity, flights coming in. We’ve seen about a halving of passenger numbers coming through the airport than we had pre-Covid.

“We will see growth, but it does allow us time to do a pretty big reset as to what we think is going to be right thing for the community. Of course, that will need to be led a lot by the council.”

The airport corporation is 75 percent owned by Queenstown Lakes District Council and the remainder by Auckland International Airport.

Future planning for Queenstown and Wānaka airports would now involve local councils and central government working together.

“We ended up being a lightening rod for a much broader set of community concerns,” Young-Cooper said, reflecting on the earlier shelved master plans for the airports.

“The council, along with the Central Otago District Council and with the Crown, has been working very hard on a spatial planning exercise which has got a 30-year view. That’s the appropriate mechanism and they’re the appropriate councils and government to have those discussions about how growth should be managed.

“It should not be something we end up doing by default.”

The airport paid shareholders dividends of $8.3 million during the past financial year and anticipated paying dividends of $2.5m in the 2023 financial year.

The statement of intent assumed international air travel would not resume during the 2021 financial year, but still projected 1.24 million passenger movements through Queenstown Airport.

“We have been really delighted by the extent that New Zealanders have shown a huge propensity to fly once we got to alert level 1 and we are seeing levels of passengers coming through and exiting Queenstown Airport that we had not anticipated.

“Obviously that’s occurring while it’s difficult to travel internationally, but it’s a really important part of the recovery of Southern Lakes and QAC,” Young-Cooper said.

“This part of New Zealand is so attractive to New Zealanders and they are coming in great numbers, they don’t replace the international tourists as well but it is better than we thought it was going to be.”Passengers board commercial jet at Queenstown Airport.

More people are flying in and out of Queenstown than expected, although not at the levels experienced before the Covid-19 pandemic hit. (file pic) Photo: 123RF

Cromwell plan to be ‘considered’

The statement of intent also acknowledged Christchurch International Airport’s shock acquisition of 750 hectares of farmland near Cromwell in Central Otago.

Read this in full here.

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