Airport wants to clip developers’ wings


Queenstown’s fast-growing airport has launched a pre-emptive strike on nearby housing growth.

The resort is grappling with surging population growth and where to put future houses and businesses.

But the airport wants the kibosh put on 30-odd requests for more intensive land zoning – with some properties more than four kilometres from the runway – to protect its future viability.

The airport’s experts argue “unanticipated and unprecedented” growth means aircraft noise will hit limits much earlier than expected.

However, the proposed changes are outside its official noise zone, within which it’s harder to develop new houses.

Mount Crystal Ltd, which owns 2.73 hectares along Frankton Road it wants to re-zone, criticises the airport’s approach as being “unjustifiable”.

The company’s consultant planner, Sean Dent, says it’s “somewhat contradictory” of the airport to oppose the strategy of Queenstown council – the airport’s owner – to allow more dense housing developments to tackle major housing supply and affordability issues.

At a hearing in Queenstown on Monday, airport lawyer Rebecca Wolt argued the airport’s future upgrades need protecting – while protecting people from increasing aircraft noise.

In pre-filed evidence, airport noise expert Christopher Day says in the long-term, some properties near the airport might be subject to “moderately high levels of aircraft noise” if the expected growth in flights occurs.

Development along the main flightpaths – mainly at Frankton and along Frankton Road – might be “marginal” for noise.

Day urges the panel to take a “precautionary approach”.

But local hearings panel chairman Denis Nugent shoots down the airport’s zone-busting position.

At Monday’s proposed district plan hearing he said it goes beyond the law and is based on “pie in the sky” forecasts.

Queenstown’s council opposes the airport’s stance.

In pre-filed submissions, senior council planner Kimberley Banks says the airport’s interests don’t trump all others.

She also warns the airport’s noise forecasts might not pan out.

Growth might be buffeted by such things as “a reduction in passenger numbers resulting from unforeseen global conditions, operational airline changes which may affect regional transport frequency to Queenstown Airport or changes in aircraft technology to reduce noises”.

The airport is spending millions of dollars to cut aircraft noise at neighbouring houses.

Under its scheme, the closest houses can get extra ceiling batts, wall board and double glazing, while those further away can get subsidised mechanical ventilation.

The airport’s 30-year growth plan is expected to be made public next month.

‘Pie in the sky’

Queenstown Airport’s attempt to shoot down future developments brought testy exchanges.

On Monday, local hearings panel chairman Denis Nugent said the airport could be prosecuted for breaching noise limits.

He described the airport’s growth forecasts as “ephemeral”, asking: “Isn’t it pie in the sky?”

Airport lawyer Rebecca Wolt said a public process would decide any extension to noise boundaries.

Nugent said there’s no evidence noise is a problem – “we’re not talking about closing down the airport”.– DAVID WILLIAMS