Heli-pad spat

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A newly-settled Queenstown billionaire’s ruffling feathers by proposing to make up to 20 chopper flights a month to and from his rural pad.

Australian Tim Roberts is applying for non-notified resource consent for a heli-pad on his 12-hectare Malaghans Road spread.

He promises he’ll create “minimal” noise disturbance.

However his nearest neighbour, builder Allister Saville, who advised him to get a consent when he found out he was building a hangar, admits he’s surprised how many flights he’s proposing.

“I think it’s a wee bit excessive.”

Roberts, in his planning application, says he plans using his Bell 429 Global Ranger to get from Malaghans Rd to his remote stations across Lake Wakatipu from Queenstown.

He’s referring to his 40-hectare slice of Walter Peak Station and his share of Halfway Bay, which isn’t accessible by road.

“For health and safety, as well as farm management reasons, the applicant requires ready access to the stations,” the application states.

In response, Saville suggests: “There’s a perfectly good airport where you could leave that helicopter and do that.”

Fellow Malaghans Rd resident Peter Faul says even if it’s accepted Roberts needs that amount of access to his stations, “it doesn’t entitle him to make the rest of us in the community compromise our quality of living to enable him to use his helicopter just for his transport”.

Faul’s biggest concern is the precedent that allowing up to 20 flights a month, or a maximum two a day, could create in the Wakatipu Basin.

“You can imagine now, with the rich and famous that seem to be coming Queenstown’s way, if every second or third or fourth one decided to have their own helicopter, the place could potentially end up being peppered with helicopters taking off from private airfields.”

That would also, he says, fly in the face of the proposed district plan, which suggests no more than three flights a week should be allowed from ‘informal airports’.

Faul: “Though that plan’s not binding, at the moment, it does tell us that the community wants to get it dealt with.”

He says he’s twice aired his concerns with Roberts.

“The first [meeting] was all about trying to find a flight path that would mitigate any effect on me, in particular, but generally for other people in the valley.

“I did highlight the difference when [Hollywood actor] Tom Cruise came and went in his helicopter [from another Malaghans Rd property] last year.

“We were hardly aware of it – he would climb vertically to quite a high altitude, and he’d drop vertically.”

He says his other concern is the risk chopper noise poses to horse and pony riders using nearby bridal trails.

In the consent application, however, Roberts’ planner says helicopters, especially in winter, regularly fly in the vicinity of his proposed heli-pad.

The planner also notes the applicant’s unlikely to reach the maximum number of applied-for flights very often as he’s out of the country a lot.

Asked to address Faul’s concerns, Roberts says: “The application has adopted a flight path to ensure minimal impact to neighbouring properties and is in accordance with established guidelines and acoustic studies undertaken as part of the assessment.

“I have endeavoured to mitigate noise effects and have taken all reasonable steps to ensure that the aircraft noise signature will have minimal effect on neighbours.

“It is not appropriate for me to comment on other resource consent matters, albeit I assume that they will be assessed on their merits.”

scoop@scene.co.nz