Aero club be­ing squeezed out

Central Otago Mirror - - NEWS - By JOHN EDENS

Wakatipu Aero Club has asked the coun­cil to dis­cuss a no­tice from Queen­stown Air­port ter­mi­nat­ing the 45-year-old fly­ing school’s lease.

The aero club was founded in 1970 and op­er­ates two di­vi­sions, a com­mer­cial Air Wakatipu ser­vice to Mil­ford Sound and pi­lot train­ing, in­clud­ing a high­lyre­garded moun­tain fly­ing course.

The air­port has given the club no­tice that its lease will not be re­newed when it ex­pires in June and sug­gested the club split its ac­tiv­i­ties and move train­ing and pri­vate fly­ing to Wanaka.

Club pres­i­dent Adrian Snow, speak­ing at a Queen­stown Lakes Dis­trict Coun­cil meet­ing, said there were al­ready three train­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion in Wanaka. The 80-mem­ber club had grad­u­ated around 300 com­mer­cial pi­lots and a coun­cil-con­trolled or­gan­i­sa­tion such as the air­port was ob­li­gated to up­hold so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity.

The club claims QAC ex­ploited a rene­go­ti­ated lease to force the club to take off, ac­tion that was ‘‘de­cep­tive and un­rea­son­able, par­tic­u­larly with re­spect to a com­mu­nity or­gan­i­sa­tion.’’

The club is sit­u­ated in a 1700 sq m sec­tion and op­er­ates six com­mer­cial air­craft and two train­ing air­craft.

‘‘A fourth up there is not fea­si­ble. Ul­ti­mately we are ask­ing the coun­cil to ask QAC board to re­assess Wakatipu Aero Club (WAC) op­er­a­tions. The prob­lem we have is one of com­mer­cial viability.

‘‘Should WAC at­tempt to op­er­ate from Wanaka, it is in­evitable that one or two of those four op­er­a­tions will com­mer­cially fail.’’

Air­port chief ex­ec­u­tive Scott Pat­ter­son said there was no obli­ga­tion to of­fer a re­newed lease and the air­port needed the land. Queen­stown was the fourth largest air­port in New Zealand and the fastest-grow­ing aero­drome in Aus­trala­sia.

‘‘We see the fu­ture as a com­mer­cial air­port set up to han­dle sched­uled air­craft and gen­eral com­mer­cial avi­a­tion. Hon­estly what we don’t see the fu­ture for is flight train­ing ac­tiv­i­ties or aero club ac­tiv­i­ties. We very much see flight train­ing best suited for Wanaka rather than a com­mer­cial air­port. That’s a trade-off and it’s tough but that’s the ap­proach we have taken.’’

Pat­ter­son said the com­mer­cial Air Wakatipu busi­ness would be ac­com­mo­dated in Queen­stown and the air­port wanted to help re­lo­cate the train­ing and pri­vate avi­a­tion to Wanaka.

Flight plans: Pro­posed Kiwi Re­gional Air­lines routes.

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