Otago Daily Times

Plans on hold for 21⁄2 years

- MARK PRICE Queenstown · Queenstown · Queenstown · Wanaka · Wanaka Airport · Vin Diesel

THE Queen­stown Air­port Cor­po­ra­tion (QAC) has un­der­taken not to ad­vance its ex­pan­sion plans for the next two and a­half years.

The QAC’s new draft state­ment of in­tent (SOI) has been made pub­lic ahead of it be­ing con­sid­ered on Thurs­day by the QAC’s ma­jor­ity owner, the Queen­stown Lakes Dis­trict Coun­cil.

The SOI states the QAC ‘‘will not ap­ply to ex­pand air noise bound­aries at Queen­stown Air­port, nor progress plans to de­velop Wanaka [Air­port]’’, over the pe­riod cov­ered by the SOI.

The SOI cov­ers the pe­riod from July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2023.

It said un­cer­tainty caused by Covid­19 meant Queen­stown Air­port was not ex­pected to reach ex­ist­ing air noise bound­aries for ‘‘many years’’.

While it did reit­er­ate pre­vi­ous state­ments wide­body jets would not be part of long­term plan­ning for Wanaka Air­port, it did not rule out in­tro­duc­ing com­mer­cial jet ser­vices at Wanaka at some later point — a prospect that has been strongly op­posed by the Wanaka Stake­hold­ers Group (WSG).

A re­cent so­cioe­co­nomic im­pact as­sess­ment es­ti­mated Queen­stown and Wanaka Air­ports con­trib­uted about $526 mil­lion to the Lakes dis­trict’s $3.06 bil­lion GDP last year.

‘‘About $40 mil­lion of this was re­lated to air­port op­er­a­tions, and a fur­ther $486 mil­lion to visi­tor ex­pen­di­ture at­trib­ut­able to the air­ports,’’ the SOI said.

How­ever, it noted the rate of growth ‘‘be­gan to mod­er­ate’’ last year and had since been sig­nif­i­cantly im­pacted by Covid­19.

It ac­knowl­edged the pace of re­cov­ery ‘‘re­mains un­cer­tain’’ and it as­sumes in­ter­na­tional air travel will not re­sume next year.

Fore­cast to­tal rev­enue for 2020 was $46,109,000, but less than half ($22,428,000) for next year with a grad­ual re­cov­ery after that.

The QAC ex­pected to pay a div­i­dend of $8,295,000 for 2020 but no div­i­dend in 2021 or 2022.

It planned to con­tinue with $36 mil­lion of seis­mic im­prove­ments to its Queen­stown Air­port ter­mi­nal over the next three years.

As part of its fi­nan­cial fore­casts, the QAC noted the full ex­tent and du­ra­tion of Covid­19 were not clear yet, sig­nif­i­cant el­e­ments of its cost base were out­side its con­trol and it had sig­nif­i­cant and on­go­ing le­gal costs as a re­sult of a High Court claim brought by the WSG.

Asked to com­ment on the SOI, WSG deputy chair­man Mark Sin­clair said it did not ad­dress key is­sues about Wanaka Air­port.

‘‘We’re re­serv­ing fur­ther com­ment un­til the High Court judge­ment comes out some­time in the next few weeks.’’

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