Central Otago residents are still reeling from a surprise announcement last week that Christchurch Airport was starting discussions about building an airport on 750 hectares ofland near Tarras.
More than 50 people — including locals, high country farmers, and residents from towns including Cromwell and Wanaka — met at Maori Point vineyard on Sunday.
Vineyard owner John Harris said he organised the meeting because everyone he knew was ‘‘totally surprised by the announcement’’.
About 200 attended a second meeting he organised on Wednesday night and Mr Harris was ‘‘delighted’’ Christchurch Airport project lead Michael Singleton had agreed to attend.
Mr Singleton said Christchurch Airport wanted to announce its intentions early ‘‘so before we begin the work of design and consenting, we can listen and understand what is important to the local and wider community’’.
The land would continue to be farmed in the immediate future while the company worked through these conversations, he said.
Christchurch Airport chief executive Malcolm Johns said the current concept was to start with a 2.2km jet-capable runway.
‘‘Building from scratch would enable us to design and build one of the world’s most sustainable airports,’’ he said.
Wanaka Stakeholders Group deputy chairman Mark Sinclair said it was ‘‘watching carefully’’ to see if and how Christchurch Airport fulfilled its commitment to consult residents.
‘‘There is no doubt that all surrounding communities, including those of Tarras, Queensberry, Luggate, Hawea, Wanaka and Cromwell, would be significantly impacted by the development of an international airport.
‘‘On behalf of our thousands of members, we note that many of the concerns we have raised in relation to the jet airport proposal at the existing Wanaka Airport are likely to also apply to an international jet airport in Tarras, just 20 minutes further from Wanaka by car.’’
Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan said it was surprising and big news for the community, but it was early days in what would be a long process.
‘‘At this early stage I encourage all our community to get informed and get engaged . .. form their own view.’’
Queenstown Mayor Jim Boult said the ‘‘surprising’’ announcement was ‘‘a strong vote of confidence’’ in the district.