Airport corp backdown


Queenstown Airport Corporation has given ground in a dispute with the Wakatipu Aero Club.

QAC late last year told the 45-year-old aero club, which has taught hundreds of pilots to fly, it wouldn’t renew its airfield lease beyond the end of next month.

It promised to help the club relocate its commercial operation, Air Wakatipu, elsewhere on the airfield.

However, it said its flying school could no longer operate from the airport, and suggested it relocate to Wanaka.

The club’s argued its flying school plays a major role in the safe operation of the local aviation sector, and that moving to Wanaka wouldn’t be commercially viable.

It’s further stated its specialist mountain flying course underpins Queenstown’s valuable Milford flightseeing tourism sector, and that it performs a valuable role advising visiting pilots on local conditions.

At a meeting yesterday between QAC chief executive Scott Paterson and the aero club, the QAC offered to extend the existing lease at the club’s current Lucas Place site till the end of August.

After that, the club will be offered a new lease till the end of June next year, but from different airport premises.

From July 2016, the club will be able to continue to run Air Wakatipu from those new premises under a new lease, till November 2019.

The club, however, will have to re-establish its flying school in Wanaka - or elsewhere at its choice - but will be able to keep its commercial mountain flying training course.

Paterson says the offer to retain the mountain flying course at the airfield is a result of feedback from local commercial operators, under the umbrella of the Queenstown Milford User Group, and from the aero club itself.

In response, aero club president Adrian Snow says: “The aero club is pleased with recent progress made in discussions with the QAC.

“Although the future structure suggested by the QAC is not yet practical, we are hopeful that agreement as to a viable future for the aero club will ultimately be achieved.