Glenorchy’s airport waits in the wings

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An upgrade of Glen­orchy’s grass airstrip to accommodate bigger planes isn’t on the cards anytime soon despite the land chang­­ing to Queenstown Airport Corp­oration owner­ship.

Queenstown Lakes Dist­­­rict Council quango QAC has recently taken over the management of the “aero­drome” from original landlords the Department of Conservation.

The Crown-owned land transfer is part of a joint “reserves rationalisation exer­­­cise” that DoC and QLDC began a couple of years ago, says DoC Waka­­tipu boss Greg Lind.

DoC’s happy to hand it over because “we didn’t want to manage an aero­drome”, Lind says.

But its new landlord maintains any redevelopment is unlikely in the near future – despite reference to plans in QAC board papers obtained by Mountain Scene under the Official Infor­mation Act.

QAC documents refer to “future land requirements for NZGY” and say a runway up to double the length of the existing one “has been superimposed on a scaled Geographical Information System plan”.

“All tourist flight aircraft currently operating at Queenstown would be accommodated, plus with the correct gradient and seal, up to the 19-seat Beech 1900 [aircraft],” the report says.

QAC aeronautical boss Chris Read says the quango stepped in earlier this year to help QLDC and DoC map out the area properly and offer advice on what’s required in the “unlikely” event the airstrip would be considered for use as a regular airport.

“A narrative was needed to go into the district plan as to what it is, what it can do and how can be done, as none existed in the past,” Read says.

“At the moment it’s just a big piece of land and aircraft land on it. It’s got no real operational detail around it.

“We just put some formality around it for QLDC in anticipation of something happening in the next 50 years or so, which is unlikely.”