Warbirds not affected by change

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Warbirds over Wanaka is important to the regional economy and will not be affected by the decision to grant a long term lease of Wanaka Airport, says John Gilks, chairman of the Queenstown Airport Corporation (QAC) and the Warbirds over Wanaka Community Trust.

Queenstown Lakes district councillors voted last week to grant a long-term lease and management arrangement for Wanaka Airport to the QAC.

Mr Gilks acknowledged he had a conflict of interest when discussing the issue but added he did not see “any threat” to Warbirds Over Wanaka as a three-day airshow.

“There are airshows overseas at much larger airports than we will ever be,” he said.

“The importance of Warbirds to the whole region is well recognised by the airport company.”

The show brought $20million into the region every two years, he said.

“It [Warbirds Over Wanaka] already has an impact on QAC operations and it is well accepted by operators. It is only three days every two years.”

Mr Gilks said he was excited about the opportunity to contribute to regional growth through the management of Queenstown and Wanaka airports by a single company.

“We started a couple of years go with the recognition Queenstown Airport was restricted in airspace and land .. if the area continues to develop, there will be severe restrictions on Queenstown Airport’s development.

“We see Wanaka Airport as complementary to Queenstown Airport,” he said.

The Wanaka community would have input into decisions about the management and growth of Wanaka Airport and details of community involvement are still to be worked through by the district council.

“It is important to talk to the community and bring them with you.”

The QAC would develop an airport Wanaka would be proud of and that would ensure the future economic development of Wanaka was strong and sustainable, he said.

“Wanaka has a strong aviation history and it’s this pioneering spirit and heritage we will look to build upon when looking to the future. Only by genuinely understanding the past can we build a sustainable future,” Mr Gilks said.