Community urged to join airport conversation

Photo: Wanaka Sun

Queenstown Airport Corporation (QAC) announced plans to continue the conversation with the Upper Clutha community on possible developments at the Wanaka Airport through various engagement opportunities during the next few months. The approach will help shape the airport’s master plan that is due to be released in late 2019.

QAC’s engagement programme will further the work built within community workshops last May where 111 people shared ideas on the airport’s future. More than 80 people also explored ideas and shared feedback online on the digital community hub from May to July. That feedback summary is now available on the airport’s website.

Earlier this year, Queenstown Lakes District Council granted QAC a $14.5 million 100-year lease on Wanaka Airport. QAC began the airport’s master planning in September.

A QAC spokesperson said the visioning workshops held in May were the first stage of the journey. According to QAC chief executive Colin Keel, next up will include Queenstown Airport and Wanaka Airport teams hosting events and meeting with community members and key stakeholders, including the Wanaka Community Board, Chamber of Commerce, Lake Wanaka Tourism and Residents’ Associations, to share information and solicit ideas on the future of the airport to help shape long-term future planning of a dual-airport approach with Queenstown Airport.

“We are also working on a series of articles and videos that provide important information on some of the things to be considered in the master planning process, such as demand forecasting, aeronautical requirements (weather patterns, airspace, flight paths, etc.), airport infrastructure requirements, connectivity and other topics. Having good information available will ensure that everyone with an interest in the future of the airport has the context they need to contribute constructively in the discussion.”

Wanaka Stakeholders Group (WSG) said its members, a group of concerned Upper Clutha residents, support QAC’s plan to consult with the community on the master plan yet they express a concern that the engagement occurred before the rejection of the proposed expansion of Queenstown Airport noise boundaries; the group also calls for more involvement from QLDC, which majority owns QAC.

“It inevitably poses the question about what role Wanaka Airport might plan as an overflow for Queenstown. While WSG welcomes QAC’s promise to share information and seek feedback on future developments at Wanaka Airport as it shapes their master plan, we question how it can undertake that fully and convincingly in the absence of a strategic plan for growth and tourism across the district from QLDC,” said WSG convener Michael Ross.

Keel said QAC recognises the growth pressures in the district and the Wanaka community’s desire to maintain its special character when considering future airport development. “We are only part of the equation and it’s important for us to work with the council, stakeholders and community to develop a master plan which helps achieve the district’s economic, social and environmental goals and provides broad benefits to the local community.”

QAC said it encourages anyone with an interest in Wanaka Airport’s future to get involved in the engagement opportunities to share their thoughts and ideas in person or online through the airport’s digital hub, which will be available as a resource throughout the master planning process.

“We want to ensure the community and stakeholders come on the journey with us and look forward to continuing the conversations with interested groups and individuals over the coming months,” said Keel.


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