Attention turns to upcoming release of plans


Tarras and Wanaka lobby groups are watching closely as Christchurch International Airport Ltd (CIAL) gears up to release runway alignment options and flight paths for the proposed Central Otago airport at Tarras in the next few months.

The timeline for the Tarras airport project has been provided on a new website created by CIAL.

According to the website, the priority for the developer at the moment is its “airspace workstream”.

“We expect to release an update on runway alignment options and potential flight paths in the coming months, with complex modelling required for issues such as noise, flight tracks, aeronautical safety, aircraft emissions and meteorological studies,” the website says.

The nine-year Tarras project had no set deadlines to build the airport.

“At this stage, we estimate it’s likely to take around three years to plan and explore the feasibility of the airport, another three years to get the required approvals, and around three years to construct it,” the website says.

The Christchurch City Council last week decided, in a split vote, to reject a motion by councillor Yani Johanson that it was concerned about the strategic direction and climate change costs of developing a new international airport at Tarras.

The minutes from the meeting on May 13 reveal Cr Johanson’s motion was declared lost by four votes to eight votes (for: Councillors Jimmy Chen, Melanie Coker, Johanson and Tim Scandrett; against: Councillors Catherine Chu, Pauline Cotter, James Daniels, Mike Davidson, Anne Galloway, Aaron Keown, Sam MacDonald and Jake McLellan; abstained Councillors James Gough, Sara Templeton, Andrew Turner and mayor Liane Dalziel).

The council was discussing a statement of intent by its subsidiary, Christchurch City Holdings Ltd (CCHL), which owns the airport and other Christchurch city businesses.

The debate was about CCHL’s three-year vision, not about whether the Tarras airport should be built. The council did resolve the following clause: “While recognising the purchase of land for the development of an international airport at Tarras was an operational decision and acknowledging the formative nature of this proposal, [the council] expects CCHL and the CIAL board to fully and regularly engage with the council on all key issues, such as future costs and the interface with the council’s commitment to climate change targets, and with the Christchurch community where appropriate.”

Sustainable Tarras lobby group spokesman Chris Goddard released a statement last Friday that said the group was disappointed the Tarras project was continuing, but it appreciated Cr Johanson raised the issues of cost and environmental impact and had brought the project to a vote.

Mr Goddard said the vote forced CIAL to release its new ebsite.

“This website was helpful as it is clear that [the] Christchurch airport leadership plan[s] to ignore awkward questions from the local community and continue a pretence that the devastating impact to Tarras is insignificant, with any concerned Upper Clutha residents easily placated,” Mr Goddard said.

Wanaka Stakeholders Group spokesman Mike Ross and Mark Sinclair told The News on Monday the group’s primary objective was to lobby for sustainable development of Wanaka Airport, and it had not gone very far down the road with developing a position on airport plans at Tarras.

“But our members have told us they are worried about Tarras. We are watching,” the Wanaka Stakeholders Group said.

Mr Ross said the seven key reasons why the Wanaka Stakeholders Group opposed developing Wanaka Airport for jet-capable aircraft also applied to the Tarras project.

Those reasons are environmental impact, over-tourism, poor local democracy, infrastructure, “we don’t need it”, “it has to be big” and “not future-fit”.

The Christchurch City Council owns 75% of CIAL. The Government owns the other 25%.

Christchurch City Holdings has spent $45million acquiring a triangular 750ha block of land between State Highway 8 and Maori Point Rd, at Tarras.