A word from Jim Boult, Queenstown Lakes mayor


Little to justify new airport at Tarras

You’ve probably read in the local media by now that I have decided not to contest the 2022 local body elections.

I am a strong believer in letting fresh ideas into any space on a regular basis, be it in politics or business.

No-one has a mortgage on all the good ideas and I believe it’s time for me to move on and give somebody new a go in the mayoral chair.

I won’t be here as the QLDC mayor in six months’ time and after October 8 my views will have no more relevance than anyone else’s in the district.

But while I have the opportunity, as a fellow citizen of this wonderful part of the world, I thought I would again put in writing my personal views on the proposed Tarras airport for the record.

In doing so, please note that this not an expression of opposition from a competition perspective or any formal position or policy of the council, and I am not simply protecting the interests of Queenstown Airport Corporation.

I am sure the good folk at Christchurch International Airport have thought about this a lot, but no matter how hard I try, I cannot see how there can be any financial justification in spending an enormous amount of money creating a third long-haul international airport for our small country.

We have two perfectly good ones already (along with a number of other already transtasman-capable airports) and we simply do not have the need for a third.

And don’t get me started on the environmental impacts.

The cost of construction of an international airport will be eye-watering.

Recent estimates that I’ve heard are north of a billion dollars.

Airports invest in infrastructure to get a return.

Having done my time in the industry, I know enough about the aeronautical business to know that getting a return on that sort of an investment in this little part of the world will take decades.

On any normal expectation of commercial return, it will not stand scrutiny.

The only justification for the construction of Tarras airport is to bring in long-haul, low-value visitors which is exactly the opposite of what practically everyone in the Queenstown Lakes district and neighbouring areas tells me they want.

We are facing a period where we will be seeking higher-spending, low-impact visitors in lower numbers.

Tarras will have the opposite effect.

In particular, the effect on the Upper Clutha, its beautiful environment and lifestyle will in my view be catastrophic and irreparable.

Many in that part of the district do not want to see wholesale growth. Tarras airport, 20 minutes down the road, will cause just that.

My plea to the proponents of this unwanted piece of infrastructure is to listen to the people of the area you are trying to impose this on and don’t do it.