School’s out on airport noise

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Education chiefs will seek expert advice over the possible noise impact of Queenstown Airport’s growth on nearby schools.

The airport recently announced controversial plans to expand its noise boundaries into large residential areas and almost double the aircraft movements the present boundaries allow, by 2045.

Ministry of Education bigwig Kim Shannon says there’ve been discussions with airport bosses.

But the ministry doesn’t yet know what impact the proposed changes may have on schools in the area.

“We will be seeking advice from a specialist to inform further discussions with the airport. Subsequently, we may make a submission to the resource management process.”

Wakatipu High School is just outside the airport’s proposed outer control noise boundary, meaning it will receive no funding from the airport for noise mitigation and acoustic treatment.

A school expansion is planned, enabling the number of students to grow from 1200 to 1800 pupils.

But locally, school leaders don’t expect the school to be adversely affected by the airport’s plans to extend its aircraft noise boundaries.

The school’s executive officer, Andrea Wilton-Connell, says the school’s in talks with the ministry but is “not actually too concerned at this point”.

Remarkables Primary principal Debbie Dickson says the school will continue discussions with the airport and Queenstown Lakes District Council to ensure any changes have a “minimal effect on teaching and learning”.

“The school was designed to exceed the airport noise requirements at the time of construction.

“We will work through any enhancements that may be required from any proposed boundary change with the MoE and QAC.”

KingsView School and Shotover Primary School are also affected but didn’t provide a comment.

The outer boundary is about 100 metres from the high school grounds.

Airport comms boss Jen Andrews says the boundaries are produced based on the flight paths and predicted frequency of future aircraft movements.

“The airport has previously opposed schools being built within its noise boundaries because it’s not ideal to have schools situated in an area that, over time, could be faced with increasing exposure to aircraft noise,” Andrews says.

“This included Remarkables Primary and Wakatipu High when these were first proposed.”

More than 300 people crammed into Remarkables Primary School hall on Tuesday evening to discuss the controversial plans.

The meeting, hosted by the Frankton Community Association, was touted as a way for the community to contribute to the association’s submission on the proposal. It didn’t invite airport bosses.

Guest speakers included Destination Queenstown boss Graham Budd, who faced tough questions from the audience around the impacts of growth and comparisons between Queenstown and other under-pressure tourist hotspots around the world.

The health impacts of increased noise were also highlighted.

Kelvin Peninsula Community Association was due to hold a meeting last night.

Submission close on August 20. Queenstown Airport Corporation will then put a proposal to the council for a variation to the district plan. If approved, a formal planning process and more consultation will take place.

Additional reporting by Daisy Hudson