QLDC publishes airport impact assessments

Expansion of Wānaka’s airport is an issues that has dogged the community for years. | Credit: Peter Newport

On Tuesday Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC) published the findings from the independently conducted socio-economic impact assessment of the district’s airport infrastructure.

In order to provide an independent view of the economic and social impacts of the district’s existing airport infrastructure, and how they compare under four hypothetical airport development scenarios, professional services firm and economist MartinJenkins was appointed to undertake the assessment in November 2019. This work was supported by direct stakeholder engagement, workshops held throughout the district, and insight gained from an open online survey.

Mayor Jim Boult thanked the community for getting involved with the stakeholder engagement and making sure a wide range of perspectives could be heard.

“Our airports are an important gateway providing family and business connectivity to our more remote part of the world, but for some they have become a focus of the challenges associated with growth and the impacts associated with aircraft movements,” Boult said.

“There have been voices on both sides of the argument. The assessments have been designed to objectively capture the likely effects of future airport development and assess the relative impacts between them. They have not been intended to arbitrate around differing perspectives. The report provides objective insight, facts and a range of factors for future consideration and to inform future decisions, but as I have previously stated and will reiterate now, any development across the district’s airport infrastructure is likely to be many years away given the effects of coronavirus on the world’s economy.

“It has been valuable to see the broad range of impacts associated with the airports and these will be important for the council, the Queenstown Airport Corporation and the community as specific development scenarios and future master plans are being developed.

“We have a modified Statement of Intent due to be brought back to council later this year for consideration. This work will be essential in providing some balanced and well-informed discussion on this and other associated projects,” Boult added.

QLDC chief executive Mike Theelen acknowledged it had been a challenging project for everyone involved. It had highlighted how much of the community’s concern around the recent rapid growth in the district’s population and visitor activity had become associated with the airport, which was very relevant to future discussions about growth and how it will be managed.

Originally due to be completed in the autumn, the global coronavirus pandemic had a significant impact on the airports’ operations and has seen a dramatic downturn in tourism and the district’s economy.

“The challenge for the MartinJenkins team was to ensure the assessments remained relevant in a new and uncertain post-COVID-19 environment, which they have endeavoured to do. The models developed for the report can be used to assess different scenarios and test different visitor demand forecasts or alternative assumptions, meaning it continues to offer a valuable assessment tool as we grapple with the fluidity of a post COVID-19 environment,” Mr Theelen said.

Jason Leung-Wai, principal consultant from MartinJenkins, said the report confirmed the important role the airport’s connectivity provides to the district’s residents and businesses.

“This counts both economically and socially, and even more so in the new COVID-19 environment,” he said.

“It is a complex task separating out impacts directly resulting from airport activity from the impacts resulting from rapid population and visitor growth. Further, impacts can be positive or negative, significant or insignificant, depending upon your perspective.

“We hope that the report provides the frameworks and information that will allow decision-makers to better understand the positive and negative impacts associated with airport infrastructure. This will help them to provide better direction and make more informed decisions on airport infrastructure that align to the district’s desired community outcomes,” Mr Leung-Wai added.

The MartinJenkins Socio-economic Impact Assessment Report can be found on the QLDC website here: https://www.qldc.govt.nz/media/0xkdujeq/mj_socioeconomic-impacts-of-ql-airports_final_report_15062020.pdf

Read edition 979 of the Wānaka Sun here.


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