Your questions answered

The following Q&A should help you understand many of the issues as they currently stand. Be sure to also check our our resources and links page.

The problem, implications for Wanaka and solution

There is a great deal of detail already on our site to help you understand the challenges Wanaka is facing. If you haven’t already, check out these specific pages:

What sort of passenger numbers could we expect to see arriving at a ‘jet capable’ Wanaka Airport?

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.


But isn’t it already a done deal?

No! There is a lot of work that QAC have to do to comply with the resource management act and the civil aviation authority to operate Wanaka Airport. And QLDC – our council, which is there to represent our interests and concerns as residents and ratepayers, is 75.01% owner of QAC!

Does Wanaka Stakeholders Group (WSG) support the return of turboprop services to Wanaka?

Yes, WSG welcomes the return of turboprop services to Wanaka Airport. The present runway is long enough and strong enough to accept the Q300 aircraft operated by Air New Zealand and Jetstar. These aircraft can carry 50 passengers and could fly to or from Auckland directly, but it’s more likely they would service Christchurch and Wellington.

Why is WSG concerned about the development of Wanaka Airport for jets?

The Wanaka Stakeholders Group Incorporated (WSG) is concerned that with jet aircraft capability, Wanaka Airport will become a destination airport for the region, being closer to Auckland, and potentially even a replacement airport for Queenstown. A jet capable airport will need a completely new 1900 metre runway and infrastructure which will cost around $400 million. To earn sufficient revenue on that investment QAC will need a significant volume of flights – far more than domestic services just for the people of the Upper Clutha. The development of infrastructure to support that level of expansion of Wanaka Airport will inevitably have a significant impact on the quality of community lives and values, the space we live in and the environment.

Our community and infrastructure are under significant growth pressure already. Our environment is clearly suffering from the adverse effects of current rapid and unmanaged growth: water, sewerage, stormwater, roading, parking, walking/cycling tracks and public toilets – just to name a few areas of concern!

We know that if Wanaka Airport was to be developed for jet services it will only supercharge the exponential growth we are currently experiencing and ultimately destroy our beautiful town, lakes and rivers and our quality of life for future generations.

Is WSG just anti-growth?

No. We are not ‘anti-growth’. We support properly managed growth that looks to preserve the reason people come to, live in and love Wanaka.

We believe that with proper consultation a balanced approach to development, and in particular the development of Wanaka Airport, will ensure decisions made work for the wider community and not just ‘the few’.

So are you just anti-tourism?

Absolutely not. We understand the importance of tourism for our community.

  • Tourism relies heavily on ‘the social contract’ with host communities.
  • There is a very real and growing risk of this contract breaking down in our region unless local voices are listened to and acknowledged.
  • Many local businesses know that the reason visitors come here, and people want to live here, is the tranquil beauty, the calm, the quiet, the environment. They know that this will disappear with overtourism, and for this reason they also oppose the expansion plans.  
  • We are in danger of killing the Golden Goose.

Where can I get my free Jet Free Wanaka bumper sticker from?

Grab your bumper sticker from Ritual Cafe or Kai Whaka Pai 

How will these passenger numbers impact our community?

Noise pollution, much busier and more congested roads, an overcrowded town centre, lack of parking and even longer queues, region-wide effects of  “overtourism”, environmental pollution and degradation of water, our infrastructure won’t cope, exponential growth that our town and communities cannot manage or afford, the break-down of the social fabric that holds us all together- the list goes on. The worst part is Wanaka will really just be a transport hub. Most visitors are going to be heading to Queenstown, Milford Sound, Mt Cook and the West Coast. Those that do want to stay in Wanaka will expect the range of five-star hotels with lakefront views that they get in Queenstown.

What percentage of passengers that fly into Queenstown are bound for Wanaka?

QAC has told us that 15-20%  of passengers arriving into Queenstown Airport are bound for Wanaka & the Upper Clutha, although their numbers appear somewhat flawed in our opinion.

Are there any restrictions on the runway length at Wanaka Airport?

Yes, Wanaka Airport is located in a restricted area, like Queenstown Airport.  On the land available to Wanaka airport, the runway can only be developed to 1900m in length. This will preclude taking advantage of modern technologies and wide-body aircraft; in particular, it excludes the option for autoland capability allowing planes to land in fog which requires a longer runway.

How much land does QAC control at Wanaka Airport?

QAC control 280 hectares at Wanaka Airport, this is twice the amount of land they control at Queenstown Airport.

How big could Wanaka Airport become in the future?

It could easily be twice the size of the current Queenstown Airport, with twice as much impact on the local Wanaka community.

Wouldn’t it be more convenient to fly directly out of Wanaka Airport?

Yes, it would be very convenient. But you have to weigh up the social, financial and environmental costs to our lives and the future of Wanaka and the Upper Clutha. Is that convenience worth the huge impact on our communities and lives – for the sake of saving ourselves a 40-minute drive? We feel the major and irrevocable impacts on our culture, community, and environment vastly outweigh the limited benefits. QAC research indicates that we presently fly out of Queenstown Airport 2.5 times each per year. Queenstown Airport will still be just over the hill. Remember 80% of the people that would fly into Wanaka are ultimately bound for Queenstown or somewhere else in the region!

What do we know about the flight path?

Planes would certainly be flying less than 1000 feet over Albert Town and Luggate. Current maps show flight paths directly over both Albert Town and Luggate (see map) but flights could impinge on the Wanaka township as a whole with flights crossing Lake Wanaka and Mt Aspiring National Park to travel trans Tasman or close to Lake Hawea as they travel north to Christchurch and Auckland. Flight approaches may utilise the Hawea or Tarras basin. 

What about hours of operation?

A report recently released by QAC points to Wanaka Airport as being an ideal candidate for 24/7 jet movements.

Can you fly into other premier overseas resorts around the world?

Yes, you can fly directly into some. But there are many premier resorts which have flourished without an airport on their doorstep – and arguably that makes them more attractive. These include:

  • Chamonix, France (airports 1-2 hours away)
  • Chatel/Portes-du-Soleil, France/Switzerland (airport 1.5 hours away)
  • Banff, Canada (airport 1 hour away)
  • Vail, USA (airport 1/2 hour away)
  • Port Douglas, Australia (Cairns airport 50 minutes away)
  • Whistler, Canada (airport 2.5 hours away)

What sort of costs are involved in developing Wanaka Airport – and who will pay for it?

In a meeting with WSG on 29th April this year QAC CEO Colin Keel confirmed the dollar amount they are looking at to expand and develop the airport is $300-400 million. That would cover the cost of the following:

  1. New 1900m long runway
  2. International standard 240m safety perimeter to runway
  3. Terminal
  4. Roading and infrastructure

No-one has said where the money will come from.

Who owns QAC?

Queenstown Airport Corporation (QAC) is a Council-Controlled Trading Organisation, 75.01% owned by QLDC and 24.99% owned by Auckland Airport.

As a CCTO, QAC is required to prepare an annual Statement of Intent (SOI) which publicly states its strategic priorities for the next three years in accordance with Section 64(1) of the Local Government Act 2002. The SOI takes shareholder comments into consideration and provides performance targets for organisational accountability.

So what are the alternatives?

Well, they include …

  • There are examples of resort town around the world that have developed and flourished without an international airport. They have found ways to make transportation work, and yet thrive as communities.
  • We support the existing focus on general aviation activities and welcome the return of scheduled turbo prop services to Wanaka.
  • We support increasing air traffic to existing regional airports in preference to developing Wanaka for jet services.
  • There are emerging aviation technologies which we should be thinking about and planning for. Even Air New Zealand is looking into options which include electric planes for regional travel.
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