Opponents are heli-mad over push to legalise landings

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An attempt to legalise a busy but unconsented helicopter landing pad above Queenstown’s CBD faces turbulence. 

Queenstown Lakes District Council is seeking consent for up to 3160 chopper landings per year at its Skyline helipad, or a maximum 15 per day. 

As it stands, two helicopter companies make about 1700 landings a year between them – mostly picking up and dropping off visitors for the nearby Skyline Queenstown restaurant complex, above the gondola. 

The council states it has “affected party” approvals from Skyline Enterprises and AJ Hackett, which runs The Ledge bungy jump, also nearby. QLDC’s also hoping for the green light from Bob’s Peak flying fox operator Ziptrek. 

QLDC earlier applied for an unlimited number of helicopter landings. 

It backed off that after independent commissioners said the application would have to be opened up to public submissions. 

Queenstowner Peter Fleming, who spoke at the commissioners’ hearing, says the newly revised consent application would effectively allow 6320 flight movements – 3160 landings and 3160 takeoffs. 

“This application, should it be granted without public input, is some sort of perverted rape of the environment. This establishes a precedent for helipads throughout the area.” 

Fleming says QLDC should also consult “affected parties” like Bob’s Peak walkers – about 30,000 a year – who pass by the helipad. Mountain bikers, whose numbers will increase with gondola-assisted access, and parapente pilots who take off nearby should also be consulted, he says. 

Fleming queries why QLDC is applying to legalise the helipad at ratepayers’ expense, when it’s benefiting private operators. 

Queenstowner Clive Manners-Wood, who also spoke at that earlier hearing, says QLDC’s application runs counter to its own policies. 

The helipad is on a recreation reserve, which has a management plan prom-oting “protection of [its] natural quiet values”, he says. 

Manners-Wood also quotes QLDC policy that “helicopters don’t land on reserves” and argues the helipad encourages noise “in various parts of the valley”. 

Ziptrek director Trent Yeo says he hasn’t decided whether to give “affected party” approval. 

“We haven’t got a problem with helicopters being there at all, we are just mindful of future development. 

“[QLDC] are suggesting more flights but it’s a bit hard to understand how many people they’re flying right now.” 

QLDC receives $3 per landing.