WSG letter calls on government to step in

Six community organisations have supported a letter written to the Prime Minister, Ministers and MPs calling on them to answer key questions about significant jet airports proposed at Wānaka and Tarras.

The letter, sent by Wānaka Stakeholders Group Inc. (WSG) was also sent to all MPs and Councillors at both Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC) and Christchurch City Council.

 The letter outlined the community's concerns about climate change. It asked how central and local governments could declare climate emergencies on the one hand, and then make decisions to support, approve or enable the building of new jet-capable airports on the other.

 WSG Chair Michael Ross said that people in the Upper Clutha as well as all around New Zealand were very concerned about climate change.

"We completed a survey of over 1,200 local people last month, including hundreds of business people, and 87 per cent said that they were worried about environmental impacts, with over three quarters concerned about their quality of life. This lined up with research conducted by our local council and government."

 Ross said that the local council, which owned 75 per cent of the district's airport company Queenstown Airport Corporation, was not listening. 

"Despite two years of raising these issues and a challenge in the High Court, QLDC has continued to show no interest in genuine community consultation or open dialogue. Even the $205,000 report QLDC had commissioned about airports had never been discussed by the full Council."

 He said he feared that the company behind the proposed jet airport at Tarras, Christchurch International Airport Limited (CIAL), would be the same.

“Early indications would suggest that to be the case”.

 Ross said that it was time for the government to step in.

 "These are no longer purely local issues. Decisions to build carbon-intensive infrastructure, which in turn enables an increase in carbon intensive jet aviation, is nothing short of madness in the current environment. New Zealand, like other nations, needs to take immediate and urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Despite plenty of clever PR and greenwashing, airport companies are not in the business of reducing carbon emissions."

 Ross said the timing of Simon Upton's second report on the impact of tourism on the environment was perfect.

"We've not examined the report fully or closely, but on first reading there were some excellent recommendations in there.

 "In the same way that leadership from the central government was required to successfully manage Covid, bold leadership will be required from the government to ensure that sound decisions are made around airport development, national infrastructure and controls on inbound tourism."

 WSG was awaiting the judge’s decisions from the judicial review about Wānaka Airport, which was heard over a week-long hearing in the High Court in Queenstown late last year.

Read edition 1015 of the Wānaka Sun here.

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