Airport noise plans don’t fly with community

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A shockingly low level of support has been shown for Queenstown Airport’s proposals to extend its aircraft noise boundaries to include an additional 3000 homes.

Figures released by the airport yesterday showed about 4% of almost 1500 people who responded to its consultation survey backed the proposals.

Also in opposition is a new business and community group, formed to fight the controversial proposal to increase the airport’s operating capacity by about two and a-half times.

Queenstown Stakeholders Group (QSG) spokesman and Frankton Community Association chairman Glyn Lewers welcomed the ”pause” but stressed expansion was a ”fundamental tipping point.”

”We have said no to the airport driving the future of the district and we will continue to do so.”

A staggering 92.5% of the online survey respondents opposed the plans, while the remainder said they were unsure or neutral.

Public bodies and schools came out in opposition. The additional adverse effects on nearby schools were mentioned 149 times by survey respondents.

Wakatipu High School, Remarkables Primary School, Kingsview School and the Wakatipu Playcentre, which are all located within the airport’s proposed boundaries, opposed the proposals.

Remarkables Primary School’s board of trustees stated it ”cannot support even entertaining a proposed boundary change to QAC operations”.

The board claimed the expansion would be ”seriously damaging to learning”.

The Southern District Health Board also objected, stating there was ”no evidence that wider public health impacts had been considered” by the airport and that Lakes District Hospital could be adversely affected.

An individual submission from an unnamed resident stated many locals were suffering from ”tourism tiredness”.

”For me, the golden goose has been decapitated; its feathers and entrails are still here.”

The top three negative effects respondents said the proposed expansion would have were: strain on destination infrastructure, impact on the quality of life of residents and additional noise for those living within the boundaries.

The consultation data showed the level of community engagement over the proposals was far higher than many of the council’s recent, high-profile projects, including its 10-year plan.

Lewers insisted the council, not the airport company, should control the resort’s direction.

He said QSG, which included six Queenstown community associations, tourism promotion body Destination Queenstown, the Queenstown Chamber of Commerce and the resort’s largest tourism companies including Skyline Enterprises, NZSki, AJ Hackett Bungy NZ and SkyCity Casino along with Frankton developer Porter Group, did not believe a focus on Wanaka airport expansion was an appropriate alternative to a strategic, district-wide plan.

The negative impacts of the airport expanding and increasing flights were damning and real, he said.

”Queenstown is at risk of becoming just a noisy and chaotic airport hub.

”There is also a growing global trend of local residents feeling the negative impact of uncontrolled tourism growth, and we need to be smarter than that.”

Lewers noted many objectors to the airport expansion feared Queenstown’s already creaking infrastructure and environment would be pushed beyond its limits, destroying the tourism asset and residents’ quality of life.

That fear was echoed over the hill in Wanaka.

A representative of recreational flyers at Wanaka Airport, Sean Gilbertson, described the QAC’s shift in focus to Wanaka Airport as ”unfair on Wanaka”.

”This is coming down our line far earlier than anticipated, and it was never sold to us like this.”

As the regulator, QLDC would have to approve any proposal by QAC to extend its noise boundaries.

-Joshua Walton and Philip Chandler