Private aviation boosts airport

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MATT.TSO
@thenews.co.nz

A new development for private aircraft has sprung up at Alexandra airport as interest in the airfield continues to increase.

The private hangar precinct has been developed and only three of its 24 sites are left available.

The precinct allows private aircraft hangars and accommodation to be built at the airport and some sites have already been completed.

Central Otago District Council property and facilities manager Mike Kerr said the development was very positive for the airport and Alexandra was becoming an increasingly attractive alternative to Queenstown and Wanaka, as facilities for private aircraft at those airports became more limited.

The new precinct was creating a higher profile for the airport within the private aviation sector, and the council was hard-pressed to keep up with demand.

Mr Kerr said the council was creating an overall development plan which would allow the airport to continue to expand on its 80ha site.

“We are not limiting our thoughts as to what may or may not be there [in the future].”

Future developments could include precincts for tourism operations, jet parking, and cool store areas for fruit export, Mr Kerr said.

The Central Otago Airports Reference Group had been formed by the council to advise on development concerning Central Otago’s airfields.

The group comprises people with backgrounds in council, private and commercial aircraft operations, and business.

Mr Kerr said the income made from leasing the sites would fund new and increased infrastructure at the airport.

“Our aim is for [the new upgrades] to have a limited effect, if any, on ongoing rates.”

Work began last week to service the new precinct with electricity and water which have previously been available only at the main terminal.

The work is scheduled to be completed about the end of March.

Mr Kerr said the income created by the development would also fund resurfacing of the airport’s 1.2km runway, which could cost up to $400,000.

Other upgrades to infrastructure include the replacement of Alexandra’s World War 2-era navigation system, which is being decommissioned by its owner, Airways Corporation.

Mr Kerr said an upgraded system would be invaluable, as it serviced the wider area.

He said although it was not compulsory to have such a system at unmanned terminals like Alexandra, it allowed aircraft to land at Alexandra in bad weather and assisted rescue helicopter services.

The new GPS-based system is being funded by the council and the Central Lakes Trust.

The council was also costing new taxiways at the airport, Mr Kerr said.