Queenstown Airport neighbours sound off

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Residents living near Queens­town Airport are spitting tacks over official forecasts of jets landing and taking off every five minutes. 

Airways Corporation is planning for the resort airport to have at least 12 aircraft movements an hour by 2016, according to an Airways document released to Mountain Scene under the Official Information Act. 

That’s a 400 per cent increase on the three or four landings and take-offs per hour at present. 

Most of the extra air activity will be Boeing 737 or Airbus A320 jet flights, Airways says. 

The projections include night flights, which Queenstown Airport wants by late-summer next year. 

Airways says the 12 movements per hour comprise only “regular passenger transport” flights – helicopter and Milford Sound flights are extra, with these sectors also expected to grow at a similar rate. 

Frankton Community Association member and past-president Robin Rice says residents of his suburb will be appalled. 

“People are going to be shocked,” he says. 

“As a Frankton resident, I’d be inclined to leave Queenstown altogether.”

The 400 per cent increase in aircraft movements is the cornerstone of a strategic plan for Queenstown air traffic control produced by Government-owned Airways. 

The plan – requiring investment of $4 to $6 million – stems from heavy criticism of Queenstown air traffic management by the Government’s Transport Accident Investigation Commission after two jets came on to a potential collision course in 2010. 

Rice says he’s never previously heard of the huge growth of flights cited by Airways. 

The new flight figures will also rock Lake Hayes Estate residents, LHE community association secretary Bar­­­­bara Smith says. 

“That’s news to us and we would find it very intense,” she says. 

However, the huge increase doesn’t phase Remarkables Primary, right under the flightpath at Frankton Beach. 

School board chair Fiona Woodham: “It’s the board’s understanding the Ministry of Education worked closely with the airport [over] noise levels – which is why all our learning spaces are fully soundproofed. 

“Since the school opened, there’s already been an increase in the number of flights and this hasn’t caused any marked change in noise levels.” 

Queenstown Airport chief executive Scott Paterson says as part of a noise boundary plan change, extensive ongoing consultation has been held with the public to inform residents on noise impacts as the airport grows. 

“Outside this, we regularly inform the community about airport developments through airport publications, the media and presentations. 

“The planned air traffic changes by Airways are in line with Queenstown Airport needing to prepare for increasing visitor demand. The fact Airways will jump capacity from four flights per hour to 12 doesn’t mean there’ll be a sudden jump in flights, nor that this maximum will be every hour, every day,” Paterson says. 

“Increase will always be gradual and is driven by tourism demands.” 

An agreement permitting the expansion of Queenstown Airport noise boundaries awaits approval by the Environment Court and isn’t expected to be made public before the end of June. 

The court was told in February that a deal’s been done between developers Remarkables Park and Shotover Park, Queenstown Airport Corporation, Queenstown Lakes District Council and Air New Zealand. 

Opposition group Wakatipu Residents Against Airport Noise (WRAAN) withdrew its appeal against the extended noise boundaries when the deal was presented to the court. 

WRAAN member Scott Freeman told Mountain Scene at the time the group is bound by a confidentiality agreement with the airport company but “we’re comfortable with the outcome”. 

The airport company has admitted in a court submission “an additional number of properties will, over time, be exposed to greater levels of aircraft noise”. 

Mountain Scene understands the airport is offering to pay for insulation and ventilation for nearby residential homes and 75 per cent of the insulation and ventilation cost for a larger group of properties further away.