The local community has not been consulted enough about plans for Wanaka Airport, Wanaka Stakeholders Group (WSG) convener Michael Ross says.
At issue was the decision by Queenstown Airport Corporation (QAC) to not proceed with expansion plans at Queenstown Airport, instead focusing its efforts on advancing the Wanaka Airport Master plan, he said.
‘‘Our assumption can only be that for such a significant investment in company time and resources, the Wanaka Airport Master Plan will provide for future commercial jet aircraft services into Wanaka.’’
Mr Ross’ concern was for the general community of Wanaka ‘‘because suddenly that extra capacity which was going to be targeted to land in Queenstown may potentially one day be landing here in Wanaka’’.
‘‘As far as I am aware, the last time there was any council consultation in relation to Wanaka Airport was in 2016 when they were consulting on the management options.’’
Since then there had not been any consultation by the council on any of the decisions it had made, Mr Ross said.
However, QLDC communications and engagement manager Naell Crosby-Roe said returning commercial services in some form to Wanaka Airport was not a new conversation following cessation of the Air New Zealand service between Christchurch and Wanaka in 2013.
‘‘This is something the community has previously voiced support for and was a consideration when QLDC confirmed the lease on the airport with QAC.’’
The council had engaged with the community around the longterm lease for the airport in late 2017, she said.
‘‘The Wanaka Stakeholders Group themselves state that it is an ‘assumption’ that commercial jet aircraft services will run through Wanaka Airport.’’
Mr Ross questioned whether Wanaka locals actually wanted a ‘‘fully commercial jet-capable airport’’.
‘‘That is a completely different ball of wax to what we have got out there at the moment.
Mr Ross had made a presentation on behalf of the group to the QLDC recently which called for the council to assess community views before waiting for the outcome of QAC’s Wanaka Airport master plan.
‘‘We want some consultation with the community on this whole issue because we believe it is a really important strategic issue for Wanaka.
‘‘QAC cannot now accommodate its projected growth in Queenstown so the company wants to redirect that growth and capture it in Wanaka.
‘‘This is a sea-change away from simply managing the Wanaka airfield on a commercial footing.
‘‘It is a sweeping and radical change which will affect the whole community.’’
A Wanaka Airport spokeswoman said QAC conducted visioning workshops and online engagement with the community and stakeholders from May to July.
‘‘During this time we posted a survey and a quick poll around some key themes, asked for ideas and concerns and started an online forum for people to have their say on what the future of Wanaka Airport could look like.
‘‘The information gathered from this first stage of the engagement will be released shortly and will help inform the master plan process, which started last month as planned.’’
There would be other opportunities for the community to stay informed and involved over the next year, she said.
‘‘Once we release the draft plan towards the end of next year, we will also undertake a comprehensive engagement programme on the draft plan to ensure all members of our community have the information they need to participate in the process and understand the opportunities for the future.’’