Otago Daily Times

Fly­ing in the face of rea­son or not?

Will they com­pro­mise, will one back down or will the Lakes district end up with three in­ter­na­tional air­ports a short drive from each other? Mark Price ques­tions Christchur­ch In­ter­na­tional Air­port Ltd project di­rec­tor Michael Sin­gle­ton and Queen­stown Airpo

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THE out­break of the Covid­19 pan­demic might have pushed back new de­vel­op­ments for air travel to the Queen­stown Lakes district, but the plans have not gone away. The Queen­stown Air­port Cor­po­ra­tion wants to ex­pand noise bound­aries at Frank­ton and de­velop Wanaka Air­port for com­mer­cial jets, and Christchur­ch In­ter­na­tional Air­port wants to de­velop a new, com­pet­ing, air­port on farm­land at Tar­ras.

Is there jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for three transtas­man­ca­pa­ble air­ports — at Queen­stown, Wanaka and Tar­ras?

Sin­gle­ton: Tar­ras and Queen­stown air­ports can co­ex­ist. Re­al­is­ti­cally, Tar­ras and Wanaka are al­ter­na­tives. The site and lo­ca­tion of Tar­ras means it can pro­vide op­ti­mal con­nec­tiv­ity for much longer.

Keel: We don’t be­lieve so. There are al­ready four es­tab­lished air­ports within a one­three hour drive of each other and well po­si­tioned across the lower South Is­land — Dunedin, In­ver­cargill, Queen­stown and Wanaka — with ca­pac­ity to to­gether serve the so­cial and eco­nomic needs of their com­mu­ni­ties for decades to come. The pro­posal to build a large­scale, long­haul jet­ca­pa­ble in­ter­na­tional air­port in a small ru­ral town sit­u­ated in a unique en­vi­ron­ment like Tar­ras is at odds with what we are hear­ing from com­mu­ni­ties across the re­gion re­gard­ing the re­spon­si­ble man­age­ment of fu­ture air ser­vices growth and sus­tain­able tourism.

What would be the best ar­range­ment for air travel to this re­gion once tourism growth pat­terns re­turn to preCovid­19 lev­els?

Sin­gle­ton: Build­ing at a new site

en­ables us to cre­ate an air­port Cen­tral Otago can be proud of. Our project would en­able more sus­tain­able avi­a­tion, be able to cater for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions and serve a wider area.

Keel: Please see the answer to the above ques­tion.

How ur­gent are de­ci­sions on the fu­ture of air­port in­fra­struc­ture in this re­gion, given the pause cre­ated by Covid­19?

Sin­gle­ton: Covid­19 has less­ened the ur­gency of the is­sue, but it takes time to cre­ate good in­fra­struc­ture that works well for the com­mu­nity and en­vi­ron­ment. This is why we be­lieve now is the time to plan ahead through ex­plor­ing the po­ten­tial of an air­port on our site.

Keel: The slow­down cre­ated

by Covid­19 has cre­ated an im­por­tant op­por­tu­nity to re­set and con­sider the fu­ture we all want for the re­gion and to plan ac­cord­ingly. We have time to take a con­sid­ered and bal­anced ap­proach to in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment, in­clud­ing air­port in­fra­struc­ture. Com­mu­nity con­sul­ta­tion and in­put is key to this process.

What rough time­line should air­port de­vel­op­ment be fol­low­ing?

Sin­gle­ton: The key thing for us, in these un­cer­tain times, is not the time­line — it’s the process. It’s im­por­tant we get this right. That is why we are start­ing by meet­ing with lo­cals, in­dus­try, iwi and other stake­hold­ers. We want to hear their think­ing, what con­cerns them most and what op­por­tu­ni­ties they want this project to con­sider. These are crit­i­cal con­ver­sa­tions. If we de­cide an air­port on our site is vi­able, lis­ten­ing now will help us cre­ate a for­mal pro­posal that ad­dresses as many con­cerns, and cre­ates as many op­por­tu­ni­ties, as pos­si­ble.

Keel: We have con­sid­ered this in our cur­rent state­ment of in­tent: QAC halted its master plan­ning work for both Queen­stown and Wanaka air­ports in 2019 at the re­quest of QLDC while they un­der­took their in­de­pen­dent im­pact as­sess­ments and the district spa­tial plan work. More re­cently the time­line for restart­ing the mas­ter­plan­ning process has been im­pacted by Covid­19 and the re­sult­ing re­duc­tion in re­gional avi­a­tion ac­tiv­ity. As and when this plan­ning work recom­mences, QAC will need to re­visit its pre­vi­ous long­term fore­casts to en­sure that they align with the district spa­tial

plan as well as the broader out­look for air trans­port in the post­Covid­19 en­vi­ron­ment.

Ul­ti­mately, QAC’s long­term plan­ning will be in­ter­con­nected with QLDC’s long­term plan­ning, fore­casts and as­pi­ra­tions for the district. [abridged]

Does cen­tral gov­ern­ment be­ing a mi­nor share­holder in Christchur­ch In­ter­na­tional Air­port Ltd mean it en­dorses CIAL’s Tar­ras pro­posal?

Sin­gle­ton: CIAL is an in­de­pen­dent com­mer­cial en­tity gov­erned by an in­de­pen­dent board. The board en­dorses our strat­egy and talks to each of our share­hold­ers. We will con­tinue our dis­cus­sions across gov­ern­ment and re­spect the con­fi­den­tial­ity of those dis­cus­sions.

Keel: Not nec­es­sar­ily.

What part could/should cen­tral gov­ern­ment be play­ing in de­ci­sions over air­port in­fra­struc­ture in this re­gion?

Sin­gle­ton: Cen­tral gov­ern­ment has a num­ber of roles to play, in­clud­ing as trans­port and in­fra­struc­ture pol­icy maker and reg­u­la­tor.

Keel: Both cen­tral and lo­cal gov­ern­ments have a role to play. Cen­tral gov­ern­ment is ac­tively ad­dress­ing na­tion­build­ing in­fra­struc­ture through the In­fra­struc­ture Com­mis­sion and its shovel­ready pro­gramme. It is also en­gaged in the district spa­tial plan­ning process with [the Queen­stown Lakes District Coun­cil] and Kai Tahu, which seeks to es­tab­lish a blue­print for fu­ture sus­tain­able growth in the Queen­stown Lakes and ad­ja­cent ar­eas. It is im­por­tant that such na­tion­ally sig­nif­i­cant de­ci­sions re­gard­ing air con­nec­tiv­ity and in­fra­struc­ture in the re­gion are care­fully made and are in­formed by this work.

Does CIAL have the QAC over a bar­rel in that Tar­ras has, it seems, greater scope for de­vel­op­ment — par­tic­u­larly in terms of run­way length?

Sin­gle­ton: We don’t see it like that. We think Tar­ras is an at­trac­tive op­tion be­cause of its scope and de­serves to be con­sid­ered as a long­term so­lu­tion for the re­gion’s air­port needs.

Keel: Big­ger isn’t nec­es­sar­ily bet­ter. The very clear mes­sage from those in this re­gion and na­tion­ally is that it is crit­i­cal to fo­cus on high­value, sus­tain­able tourism, rather than high vol­umes, and the pro­tec­tion of our unique and beau­ti­ful place. A new large­scale in­ter­na­tional air­port in this re­gion would fly in the face of that mes­sage.

Has any thought been given to a joint ven­ture be­tween the QAC and CIAL at ei­ther Tar­ras or Wanaka?

Sin­gle­ton: We have an open mind and an open door to con­ver­sa­tions with other par­ties in­clud­ing QAC and QLDC.

Keel: QAC has two com­mit­ted and sup­port­ive share­hold­ers in its ma­jor­ity share­holder Queen­stown Lakes District Coun­cil (75.01%) and mi­nor­ity share­holder Auck­land In­ter­na­tional Air­port (24.99%). QAC and its share­hold­ers are of the view that the re­gion is wellserved by its ex­ist­ing air­ports now and into the fu­ture.

Is there any­thing else?

Sin­gle­ton: We agree Covid­19 is giv­ing us all time to plan for fu­ture de­mand in the lower South Is­land. How­ever, it’s im­por­tant we make the most of this time to have con­ver­sa­tions with com­mu­ni­ties and con­tinue plan­ning.

Keel: We ex­pect at some point in the fu­ture to re­sume the longterm plan­ning process for Wanaka Air­port. In any event, and to en­sure clar­ity on a spe­cific point raised in re­cent public com­men­tary, QAC has not sought nor is it seek­ing go­ing for­ward to ac­com­mo­date wide­body jet op­er­a­tions in the long­term plan­ning for Wanaka Air­port.

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 ??  ?? Michael Sin­gle­ton
Michael Sin­gle­ton
 ??  ?? Colin Keel
Colin Keel

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