The Environment Court has ordered Queenstown’s airport company to prove the safety case for its long-sought expansion on to privately owned land.
In her decision on December 22, Judge Jane Borthwick didn’t make a final ruling on the issue over land known as lot six.
She adjourned proceedings so the airport company could prepare an “aeronautical study” on its expansion plans and seek any necessary approvals from the Civil Aviation Authority.
The decision, which followed seven days of hearings last June and August, is the latest development in a lengthy impasse between landowner Remarkables Park Ltd and Queenstown Airport Corporation (QAC).
QAC acting chief executive Mike Clay says the court is best placed to resolve the impasse, and moved the issue forward.
But Remarkables Park boss Alastair Porter says the matter could go on for “many years” and mediation is the quickest way to resolve it.
QAC wants the court to approve its acquisition of 16ha of the 18.4ha greenfield site, which sits between the airport’s main runway and the future eastern access road.
The company lodged a “notice of requirement” with the Environmental Protection Authority in 2010 to alter the aerodrome’s layout by moving facilities for general aviation fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters and corporate jets to the south of the airport’s main runway.
It wants to use the freed-up land for expanding its terminal and apron area.
Asked by the Otago Daily Times if it was a case of when and not if the court granted QAC a notice of requirement, Clay says “We’d like to think so.
“I think what the court is doing is dotting its i’s and crossing its t’s.”
He says the most pleasing aspect of the judgement is its finding that a minimum separation requirement between the existing runway and a proposed new taxiway should be 168m rather than the 93m decided by the court in 2012.
The court told the company to commission the aeronautical study to prove its proposed runway and taxiway system would be safe.
Clay: “We expect to do that comprehensively and I wouldn’t expect any issues with CAA approvals.”
It will consult all the aerodrome’s key users and he expects the study to take about three months to complete.
If the court is satisfied with the safety case and grants the notice of requirement, the company will begin a Public Works Act process to compulsorily acquire the land.
Porter rejects any suggestion his company is “holding up” the airport’s expansion plans.
“We own the land, and the airport are yet to prove their case that they need it.”
Issues raised by Remarkables Park’s safety expert probably influenced the court’s decision to ask QAC to prove its safety case, he says, and the QAC can not be confident the safety case will be approved.
“I don’t see how the airport can predict what the director of Civil Aviation is going to say, and if they could one wonders why they didn’t get the information from him and put it before the judge earlier.”
The developer is waiting for legal advice before deciding whether to appeal the decision, and has until the end of the month to do so.
The court has directed QAC to provide a memorandum by February 15 giving a timetable for the completion of the safety case and any approvals required from the CAA director.
Otago Daily Times