No plain sailing for new Lake Wakatipu application

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A Queenstown floatplane operation proposed from four popular bays in Lake Wakatipu is likely to run into turbulence.

Queenstown Floatplane Services Ltd is applying for resource consent to land and take off up to 10 times a day from either Bob’s Cove, Wilson Bay, Sunshine Bay or an unnamed bay between the last two.

News of the proposed sightseeing operation comes a week after Mountain Scene┬árevealed neighbours’ concerns over a proposed heli-pad on Queenstown’s Malaghans Road.

Billionaire Tim Roberts is applying for non-notified consent to make up to 20 helicopter flights a month from his rural pad.

The floatplane company, owned by local Dalefield property owner James Gott, would choose which bay to operate from based on wind direction and surface conditions, including whether other lake craft are present.

It’s proposing to use two Cessna Supervan 900 aircraft capable of carrying nine people including the pilot.

Gott’s planner claims his proposal will have far less impact than previous floatplane proposals because it avoids Queenstown Bay and there won’t be any permanent structure on the bed of the lake.

Passengers will board the plane from the shore, from where it will be towed to the take-off and landing area.

In 2009, Kiwi pilot Brent Collins proposed a Queenstown Bay-based operation, though the ‘air strip’ was to be more than 800 metres from the tip of the Gardens peninsula.

Before the proposal was abandoned there was substantial opposition including an ‘Opposition to Float Plane Runway in Queenstown Bay’ group, formed by a local resident.

Gott’s application says he’s “taken great care in selecting the take-off and landing locations, as well as the flight paths, to minimise potential noise disturbance and adverse amenity effects”.

“The take-off and landing locations have been relocated after discussion with the council to have them further set back from the land.”

A report by acoustic consultants recommends the aircraft take off more than one kilometre from the nearest dwelling, in each bay, to meet New Zealand noise standards.

Gott, however, is likely to face strong opposition from residents living near scenic Bob’s Cove, who were alerted to the proposal last week through their neighbourhood Facebook group.

Sue Farry, who’s lived in the vicinity since 1975, says using Bob’s Cove for a floatplane landing strip is “just ridiculous”.

She says the area hosts the closest stand of native bush to central Queenstown, attracting birdlife that she maintains would be incompatible with floatplanes.

Kris Vermeir, who moved in about 15 years ago, says increasing numbers of people, attracted by the area’s peace and tranquility, are building homes there.

“There are so many other areas around the lake that are well away from habitation that would be just as suitable.”

He notes that Southern Discoveries’ Spirit of Queenstown catamaran silences its engines when it pulls into Bob’s Cove for stopovers on its daily cruises to Mt Nicholas.

He’s in no doubt there’ll be vocal opposition to the floatplane from other residents in his area.

Mountain Scene’s not been able to reach Gott for comment.