Video: Tomorrow's Wanaka

This video was released on 27th December 2019. It aims to get people talking about the future of the Upper Clutha community, particularly in light of recent moves by QLDC and QAC in relation to our community airport at Luggate.

Below we have provided some initial notes and a full copy of the script, plus footnotes showing our sources. We know that this will generate discussion and interest.

Very importantly if you’d like to stay informed of developments, add your voice, or just register your concern, please join the 3,000+ existing members of Wanaka Stakeholders Group Inc. by signing up online. It is free, and takes about a minute. Sign up here.

About this video

This brief animated video was created over the last month by the team at Animation Research alongside Wanaka Stakeholders Group. The aim of the video is to raise awareness and stimulate discussion about key issues surrounding the future of Wanaka – specifically the planned development of Wanaka Airport into a jet capable airport for the district.

The video is based on publicly available information (such as who has effective control of the airport, how much money will be invested developing it into a jet capable airport, current orientation of the runway, new runway length limits, key requirements of commercial airports etc) as well as expert input from industry professionals on key matters (jet arrival and departure flight paths based on industry norms and local geography, how the stated investment translates into numbers of jet flights required to provide an industry average commercial return, most likely positioning of airport buildings, likely impact on traffic flows etc).

We know that some of the very specific detail (eg eventual shape, size and positioning of the terminal building) will be challenged by QLDC, QAC and others, and focussing on the finer detail may be a diversion tactic for those who are pro-expansion. Our aim here is not to predict the terminal shape, or to guess the exact number of buildings. Rather, it is to show the scale and potential of this airport, based on all the information we currently have to hand as well as expert advice or opinion, to get people thinking about the likely impacts of such an airport.

It is our view, and the view of our members, that before anything else happens, the community should be involved – front and centre – in deciding the future of Wanaka Airport.

If you feel the same way and have not yet added your voice to our member base, please join us here.

Video script

[Footnotes are added in brackets like this: (1), and you will find the further detail below under “Detailed footnotes”]

This place we call home is unrivalled for its majestic beauty and breathtaking tranquility. That’s why people journey from all over the world to visit us, and also why many of us have chosen to call it home.

Wanaka is changing – all good things do eventually. Right now we have an opportunity – as a community – to come together, have our say and have real input into shaping Wanaka’s future.

We’re now the fastest growing district in New Zealand (1), with the Upper Clutha projected to almost double in population again in the next 20 years (2). And with that extreme growth comes opportunities, but also all sorts of thorny challenges which as a community we’ll have to navigate carefully together.

Despite this projected growth, our council has effectively sold our local airport to Queenstown Airport Corporation recently, giving them full control over its future (3). They in turn have bought neighbouring land (4), so that the total footprint is twice the size of the footprint of Queenstown Airport.

Like all airport companies, they are motivated by profit and volume. QAC have said they’ll spend $400m (5) developing it into a jet capable airport. And with that kind of investment, based on industry standards, they’ll need a lot of flight movements every day to get a return on investment. (6)

In the next few years, Wanaka airport is likely to become much bigger and busier than Queenstown’s is now (7), and what most people don’t realise is that once you have a jet capable runway, QAC will easily justify the need for more and more jets. In fact, it will become very hard to stop this.

We need to think long and hard about whether this is what we want for the Upper Clutha, because once we let this happen in the middle of our incredible basin, there will be no turning back.

This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to make the right decision for our community, and be in control of our own future. Our decisions today will last a lifetime.

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Detailed footnotes

  1. Fastest growing district in New Zealand:
  2. QLDC population projections:
  3. See the lease which QLDC have granted QAC over Wanaka Airport, effectively giving them control of the airport in perpetuity for a one-time payment. See also WSG’s Statement of Claim, when released by the High Court (media requests pending – likely release January 2020).
  4. Pre-emptive purchase of neighbouring land which includes aerial maps.
  5. Airport cost c.$400 million. and subsequently reported, not refuted.  Jim Boult then reacted to the Richard Somerville report below by saying that they’ll spend “half now half later”, but QAC has not confirmed that, and in any case it is still $300-400m over a few years.
  6. This is based on the report created by Richard Somerville, which looked at the $400m QAC is going to spend on the airport, and compared to the capital expenditure vs return of CHC, AKL, ZQN, WTG and SYD airports. See the full report here: In this report, Mr Somerville concludes that to match industry standards, the developed Wanaka Airport would need 26,200 flights per year, which is 72 flights per day, or one every 10 minutes, 12 hours a day. Note this is to match average industry standards. In their most recent Statement of Intent, QAC have stated that they will drive “superior” returns.
  7. Based on current Queenstown Airport Corporation’s (QAC) growth projections the following could reasonably be expected to be arriving in the Upper Clutha: By 2035 we could expect up to 2.8 million passenger movements annually at Wanaka Airport. By 2045 we could expect up to  3.9 million passenger movements annually  at Wanaka Airport. The graph below from QAC is the forecast demand for the Queenstown Lakes area. However, based on the latest announcements from Queenstown Airport Corporation (QAC), it looks as though Queenstown Airport (ZQN) will be capped at 3.2 million passenger movements annually. That strongly suggests that the plan is for Wanaka Airport to receive the overflow, as stated above. See further detail at

Further notes (for the super detailed!)

We will keep adding to these notes as questions are raised over time.

  • Jet glide paths. Because information about this has not been fully published by QAC (despite acknowledging that they’ve had consultants on this for many months), we know the following.
    • The current orientation of the runway.
    • The angle (and rate of descent) that jet planes have to approach the runway on finals and short finals.
    • The fact that jets need to avoid natural obstacles like mountains (eg Mt Iron) and obstructions closer to the runway.
    • That flights will land from both directions, not just one direction all the time. The direction for any given day will change given wind conditions. Based on other airports, including Queenstown, we are assuming that the split will be roughly 50/50 in each direction over time.
    • Very detailed notes from a jet pilot advisor: Flying RNP AR approach’s there is a requirement to be fully configured at the FAF, therefore the landing power will be 65% from there to touch down, not at idle as in the old days! With regards to the prevailing wind, industry best practice is to use the non prevailing runway whenever conditions allow, and this would have the effect of spreading inbound flights equally between Luggate and Albert Town. For those focussed on noise, a departing aircraft will be noisier, but it will be significantly higher than an approaching aircraft, using Albert Town in the example it would be easily twice the height of an approaching aircraft, and the flight path is a lot less predictable in the Wanaka case.
  • Runway orientation. We are working with the current runway orientation. There has been talk of skewing the runway a few degrees, towards Wanaka, to get a little more runway length. We do not have a copy of these plans, but that would put the flight path right over Wanaka.
  • Runway size. 1900m, plus obligatory 240m safety margins at each end. 40m wide.
  • Terminal building design. We have no information on this yet, and have not been privy to any briefing to architects.
  • Airport layout. We have no information on this yet, but there are core elements which would be needed including a control tower, a terminal building, a jet capable runway, an apron (sealed area for jets near the terminal) and access taxiways. You would then need ample parking, room for associated businesses, airport hangers. We have assumed at least a couple of airport hotels over time.
  • Development of neighbouring land: In this model, we have not shown development of non QAC owned land. This is land that a) might be acquired compulsorily, b) may be bought by QAC or c) may be developed by its existing owners. This would include airport related businesses, hotels, further car parking, tourist attractions etc.
  • Development of Wanaka, Albert Town, Luggate, Hawea etc: In the animation, we have not shown further development in Wanaka. This would be very time consuming and expensive to achieve, and would also include too many assumptions for the time being. The graphics used in this video already do not include the current built environment in some of the major housing developments, as the imagery used to create the animation was a few years old. We did not have the time or budget to build this all up.

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