Tarras Airport operational in ten years

Sleepy little Tarras- set to become an international airport? Credit: Wānaka Sun

The Tarras International Airport could be up and running in as little as ten years, according to Christchurch International Airport project lead Michael Singleton.

In a conversation with Tarras resident Chris Goddard, Singleton said planning had begun and involved three years of design, three years to seek approvals and three years of construction.

Goddard said Singleton talked a lot about the airport team being in the middle of their airport cycle. He said it would be an approximate ten-year time frame.

Singleton also talked about getting the communities opinion on what the airport would look like so they could add that to the planning.

Goddard said: "There are a bunch in the community who are interested in hearing more and their minds are open neither pro nor con, and this came up just before the election. And there are a bunch who are quite concerned about a big international airport operating potentially 24/7 with on-site work like fruit packing and freight handling. Its a big change. A lot of people are concerned about what that will do to their lifestyle."

Singleton presented the ten-year timeframe as a statement of fact, Goddard said.

He talked a lot about the airport being investable and consentable as to the design process. They need to get money to invest in the airport, whether that's investable or equity, Goddard said.

Christchurch Airport manager communications Yvonne Densem confirmed that ten years was the starting estimate of a realistic timeframe for the new airport being up and running. We have bought 750 hectares of land on which an airport might be built, she said.

"Ten years represents our current estimate of a realistic overall timeframe. Exact timeframes are difficult to define at the moment but will become more apparent as we continue our work. Any airport would have to be shown to be feasible and able to secure planning approvals.”

Densem said they could not answer questions about runways or hours of operation as they had not created a business case yet.

" The first step is to have conversations with Tarras residents to help us understand what is important to people so we can take that into account," Densem said.

"The conversations will inform our way forward. At this stage, there is no formal proposal, so we haven't concluded on questions like runways and hours of operation. We will share those things when they are ready."

Densem also said that Christchurch Airport executives were "of the view people will continue to want to travel into and out of the wider Central Otago region into the future, so the region needs an airport solution that can do the job for the region in the long term.”

Goddard said a Tarras Residents' Society would be established shortly to help the community decide what a sustainable plan for Tarras would look like for 2021 and beyond.

Mark Sinclair of the Wanaka Stakeholders Group (WSG) said: "We're aware of the unfolding plans at Tarras, but our primary focus today is on Wānaka Airport. We're waiting on the High Court judge's ruling, likely within the next two months. In the meantime, there is no indication from either QAC or QLDC that they are changing their approach to Wānaka Airport, which is the immediate threat to our community. QLDC has chosen to spend $2.7 million of ratepayers' money to make way for the planned runway - expenditure which they tried to hide from ratepayers. They need to be held to account.

 "As a region, we should be having robust conversations about the future, including the future of tourism and the massive climate challenges we all face. Queenstown Airport still has significant slack left in its existing noise boundary, even more so because of Covid. And then there's existing infrastructure at both Dunedin and Invercargill Airports. Surely nobody should be talking about new airports for a long, long time - let alone building them?"

Read edition 997 of the WānakaSun here.


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