‘Protect our peace’ in the Rees

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Glenorchy residents continue to mobilise against plans for a huge influx of helicopter flights in the Rees Valley.

They’re opposing Rees Valley Lodge Limited’s plans to build a luxury hunting lodge complex at Rees Valley Station, including 20 buildings and five helipads, and Heli Glenorchy’s proposal for a new chopper base further down the valley.

The projects will allow a combined total of up to 16,000 extra helicopter take-offs and landings per year, but residents say the area’s already “peaked with aircraft activity”.

Glenorchy-Paradise Road resident Fiona McQueen says both proposals will have a “detrimental effect” on residents’ peace and the environment.

“The valley here is at huge risk of becoming overdeveloped.

“We don’t want helicopters zooming around here.

“Once peace has gone, it’s gone forever.”

Trish Fraser, who lives in Glenorchy and owns a house near the proposed chopper base, says the community wants to see the minimisation of “air, noise, light, soil and water pollution”.

“Unfortunately when the community defined the level of noise activity, I believe it was assuming all flights would be taking off and landing at the Glenorchy Airstrip.

“I had never even heard of ‘informal airports’ at that time.

“Every fine day when residents are likely to be outside, there will be non-stop helicopter activity from 7am to 10pm, and up to twice a week before 7am.

“Why should so many residents be upset for one company to make more money?”

She worries that under Queenstown council’s proposed district plan, smaller informal airports will be able to operate with no need for resource consent.

Residents want to see both proposals publicly notified but a decision on their notification status is yet to be made.

A petition against the planned chopper base, near the Precipice Plateau subdivision, now has more than 1100 signatures.

It states the hangar will cause “major noise pollution and destruction of the pristine peace of this beautiful valley”.

If the plans are approved, Heli Glenorchy will be allowed to run up to 3000 flights per year from the base and up to 5000 flights per year will be permitted at the lodge – a combined increase of about 23 flights a day in the valley.

The lodge is planned for land less than one kilometre away from the Rees-Dart Track and about 2km from the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area.

But both companies say their plans will have “less than minor” adverse effects on the environment.

Neither responded to requests for comment before deadline.

The Glenorchy Community Association’s (GCA) calling on Queenstown’s council to ensure all commercial aviation activity’s based at the township’s airstrip.

GCA chairman John Glover says the group feels a limit should still be placed on flights at the airstrip.

joshua.walton@scene.co.nz