Prime minister asked to block Central Otago airport plans [Stuff, 19/02/21]
Wānaka residents have urged Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to reject plans for two new airport developments due to climate change pressures.
The letter – sent to Ardern, Members of Parliament and councillors at the Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC) and the Christchurch City Council – asks them to consider the suitability of proposed new airports in Wānaka and Tarras given they had declared a climate emergency.
“If our political leaders cannot make the only logical, let alone moral, decision in the face of the climate change crisis, it calls into question the credibility of our commitments – both nationally and internationally,” it says.
The letter was authored by the Wānaka Stakeholders Group (WSG) and is co-signed by six community organisations.
Christchurch International Airport Limited is proposing to build an international airport on a 750-hectare site it has bought near Tarras.
The company is 75 per cent owned by the Christchurch City Council, with the New Zealand Government retaining the remainder of shares.
The site is only 20 kilometres from Wānaka Airport, which Queenstown Airport Corporation (75.01 per cent owned by QLDC and 24.99 per cent by Auckland Airport) plans to develop as Queenstown Airport reaches capacity.
The stakeholders group was established in opposition to plans to develop Wānaka Airport into a jet-capable airport.
The letter states the airport developments at Wānaka and Tarras should also be rejected because of over-tourism, impossible and unaffordable demands on infrastructure, damage to the natural environment and the likelihood of creating problems for future generations.
“However the existential and urgent crisis that is climate change puts the correct decision for New Zealand’s elected representatives beyond argument,” it says.
WSG chair Michael Ross said it was time for the Government to step in.
“These are no longer purely local issues. Decisions to build carbon-intensive infrastructure, which in turn enables an increase in carbon intensive jet aviation, is nothing short of madness in the current environment.”
Bold leadership was necessary to make sound decisions regarding airport development, national infrastructure, and controls on inbound tourism, he said.
A spokeswoman for Ardern said she had not yet had the opportunity to read the letter.
Last year WSG took a judicial review against Wānaka Airport’s owner, Queenstown Lakes District Council, and its operator, Queenstown Airport Corporation.
The judge’s decision has been reserved.