The Wanaka Upper Clutha Community Board (WUCCB) have questioned the need for an international airport at Tarras, revealing they would have ‘‘concerns for the Upper Clutha’’ if the proposed project were to get the green light.
In a statement released yesterday, WUCCB chair Simon Telfer said Wanaka’s proximity to Tarras would make it a ‘‘sought after first stop’’ for visitors to the region, placing additional pressure on the town’s infrastructure.
‘‘The pressure on a relatively small Upper Clutha ratepayer base to provide the investment required for the anticipated surge in visitor numbers will be substantial.’’
Countering Christchurch Airport’s suggestion that the Tarras project would address Central Otago’s ballooning tourist numbers, Mr Telfer said the Board was in favour of the ‘‘regenerative approach’’ to tourism advocated by groups such as Lake Wanaka Tourism and Destination Queenstown.
‘‘This has moved the focus away from mass tourism to mitigating the impacts of tourism with greater sensitivity for the place and its people,’’ he said.
‘‘It [regenerative tourism] recognises the need to provide guardianship of the natural environment; the primary attraction to visitors in the first place.’’
He said the Queenstown Lakes District Council were developing a masterplan for Wanaka Airport, and that the Board would push for this to be undertaken next year.
‘‘This community-shaped strategy will provide clarity on airport users, businesses and residents’ desire for the development of Wanaka Airport and the role it will play in the region over future decades,’’ he said.
Mr Telfer added that the environmental impact of increased air travel would run counter to the QLDC’s Climate Action and Biodiversity Plan.
Adopted in 2019, the plan was a response to the council’s official declaration of a climate and ecological emergency. It was intended to help the district ‘‘adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change’’, which included working with the tourism sector to become a ‘‘net zero carbon and zero waste destination’’.
Now three years into its data gathering phase, Christchurch Airport have said they would consider beginning the approvals process as soon as next year.
Mr Telfer said that the Board sought to be included in ‘‘any decision making’’ on large infrastructure projects in the region and supported a ‘‘nationwide conversation’’ about the need for an additional international airport.