What about Tarras airport?

Since the announcement by CIAL (Christchurch International Airport Limited) about their airport plans for Tarras, we’ve been asked for WSG’s view. We have surveyed our members specifically about this question twice. First in January 2021, and then two and a half years later in August 2023, just before CIAL came out with further announcements.

Our communications to members with details of BOTH surveys are below.

If you are concerned about plans for the airport at Tarras, there is a separate group which launched in 2021 in opposition to Central Otago Airport. The sign up page is here. The group website is here. We would encourage concerned WSG members to join that group as well as remaining a WSG member.

August 2023 survey results.

On 13 September 2023, we sent the following to our members.

Kia ora members

Thank you to everyone who was able to put a few minutes aside to answer our survey about the Tarras Airport proposal. We have now completed our analysis, and you will hear/read more in the media in the next couple of days.

However, as a WSG member, we wanted you to see the results first. Our full media release is below, but the headlines are:

  • There is strong opposition to the proposed airport at Tarras (nearly 83%).
  • This is almost 10% up on two years ago, and this survey was also completed in August, before Christchurch Airport made its recent announcements.
  • 95.9% of you said that the Upper Clutha “should or must” be involved in the decision making process for Tarras.
  • Concerns remain very strong around climate change, overtourism, environmental impact and strain on infrastructure.
  • These results did not change for the 30% of members who own or operate a business in Central Otago, or the 13% who are tourism businesses.

Please be clear that our primary focus remains Wānaka Airport. But the issues at Tarras are no different, and our members have reinforced increased concern about the Tarras proposals.

Thanks also to those of you who said you might be willing to help. We will be in touch.

The media release is below our email footer.

Thank you, as ever, for your support.

Ngā mihi
The Wānaka Stakeholders Group Inc. team

We remain focussed on Wānaka Airport. If you wish to oppose the planned jet airport at Tarras, you can sign up to join the separate group here. More information on WSG’s position on Tarras Airport is here.



Survey: Strong opposition to Tarras Airport from Wānaka Community and businesses

(Wānaka, Thursday 14 September 2023) A survey of residents and businesses in the Upper Clutha released today has revealed strong opposition to the proposed international airport at Tarras. The survey was conducted before Christchurch Airport’s announcements about Tarras a fortnight ago, and reveals that concerns about the airport have intensified significantly over the last two years.

The survey, conducted by Wānaka Stakeholders Group, found that 82.7% of the 608 respondents were opposed to an airport at Tarras, up almost 10% on a similar survey conducted two years ago. Of those, nearly 70% were “thoroughly opposed”. It also revealed that 95.9% of respondents say that the Upper Clutha should or must be involved in the decision-making process for a new airport at Tarras, with 71% saying “must”.

WSG Chair Meg Taylor says that the results show a significant jump in opposition to and concern about Tarras from the community. “We last surveyed members over two years ago, and there has been further growth in concern since then,” she said. “We’ve seen significant increases in the proportion of community members opposed, as well as the demand for our community to be closely consulted and involved in decision making.”

“For example, two years ago, two thirds of respondents said we must be closely consulted. That has now increased to over 71%.”

She says that community members remained “very concerned” about the same issues as previously. “Those issues are climate change, overtourism, environmental impact and strain on infrastructure, with between 79 and 81% of respondents concerned about each issue.

She said it was “telling” that the survey results did not change significantly for those respondents who own and operate businesses, including tourism businesses. “Nearly a third of our respondents own or manage a business in Central Otago, and over 13% are tourism businesses. 

Survey results are in line with both Destination Queenstown and Lake Wanaka Tourism’s recent response to Tarras. “We agree with them that this is not just a Tarras issue but will impact the wider region, bringing visitors on a scale not seen before. And the Tarras proposal is not aligned with the ‘quality over quantity’ approach endorsed by the community in its destination management plan. Our view is that managing tourism numbers is the key to maintaining the value of our destination both for residents and for visitor experience.”

Meg reinforced that the issues people were concerned about with the potential development of Wānaka Airport apply equally to the international airport proposal for Tarras. 

“Our group remains focused on ensuring that development at Wānaka Airport is consistent with the community’s wishes and aspirations, and that issues such as overtourism, climate and environmental impact and strain on local infrastructure are front and centre.”

“Our focus on Wānaka Airport remains unchanged”, she states.. . “We are well aware that moves to develop the airport could be re-visited at any time and we’ll continue to ensure that the Upper Clutha community is leading the conversation, not excluded from it.”

“Nevertheless, this survey demonstrates that a major international jet airport a short distance further down the road is equally unpalatable to our community.” 

“This is not about NIMBYism,” she says, “it’s about ensuring that airport companies don’t make uncontested and poorly considered decisions about our region with irreversible and overwhelming consequences for the Upper Clutha and Central Otago.”


January 2021 survey results.

In January 2021, we surveyed our members to determine the overall view of our membership, and on Wednesday 10th February 2021, we sent our members the letter below.

Wednesday 10th February 2021 – sent via email

Dear [member name]

Since the surprise announcement last year about plans for an international airport in Tarras, we’ve been asked frequently for WSG’s position on Tarras Airport.

Our Committee felt that we first needed to listen to our members’ views before coming to any position about Tarras Airport, and thus the survey of members was emailed out early in the New Year. Since then, we’ve had over 1,200 responses to the survey.

Below, we share our updated position on airports, taking into account your collective views on Tarras. You’ll see that our slightly revised position builds on our core principles – established from the outset – and updates them given the new set of issues we face in 2021.

WSG’s position on jet capable airports impacting the Upper Clutha

  • WSG’s primary concern is the failure by QLDC to consult – properly and lawfully – about the future of Wanaka Airport and Project Pure.
  • Our members are concerned about a range of issues, with democratic process, climate change and maintaining the character of our environment at the top of the list.
  • Despite two years of raising these issues and a challenge in the High Court, QLDC has continued to show no interest in genuine community consultation or open dialogue. Even the $205,000 report QLDC has commissioned about airports has never been discussed by the full Council.
  • Now two years on, a combination of the impacts of Covid-19, intensified national and international focus on climate change and the environment, and the proposal by Christchurch International Airport Ltd to build a big international airport at Tarras, brings these issues even more sharply into view.
  • The time has long since passed when the Upper Clutha community will sit back and allow airport companies to determine the future of our local infrastructure and environment, aided and actively supported by councils that place commercial interests above community interests, play down community concerns and even blatantly ignore them.
  • How can any responsible government – national or local – declare a climate emergency and then allow or actively pursue the development of further airports in NZ, thereby opening the door to mass tourism? This will inevitably generate increased carbon emissions from both international and domestic flights, as well as from transport and other infrastructure required to support such growth.
  • In the same way that leadership from Central Government was required to successfully manage Covid, bold leadership will be required from the Government to ensure that sound decisions are made around airport development, national infrastructure and controls on inbound tourism.

Highlights from our recent survey of members
We had over 1,200 people respond to our survey. Key findings are as follows:

  • 74% of respondents are opposed to a new international airport at Tarras
  • 87% are very worried about environmental impacts (including Climate Change and Greenhouse Gas Emissions which would only increase if developments at Wanaka or Tarras went ahead)
  • 83.5% were concerned about the negative impacts on the unique character of the Upper Clutha
  • 76% said that they were concerned about the impacts on Quality of Life
  • 68.7% were concerned about road safety
  • Two thirds said that Upper Clutha ratepayers MUST be closely consulted on and involved in airport decisions, with another 30% saying that they should be.

The survey included responses from 366 businesspeople in our district, representing a sizeable sample of our business community, as well as residents from all key settlements in the Upper Clutha, plus Tarras and surrounding area, and was representative of all (adult) age groups. The results also line up with the results of the MartinJenkins airport assessment survey and the recent Quality of Life surveys – all of which were commissioned by QLDC.

We are still awaiting the judge’s decisions from our judicial review held in the High Court in Queenstown late last year. You will be the first to hear from us once we have read that decision.

In the meantime, we hope you are enjoying what is left of summer.

Ngā mihi

Michael Ross, Chair
Wānaka Stakeholders Group Inc.
On behalf of the Committee and Core of WSG

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