A new tourism operation wants to set up shop in Gibbston, with a possible 25 helicopter flights in and out of the valley a day.
Havoc Farms Limited, owned by bungy pioneer Henry Van Asch and his wife Caroline Hutchison, wants to run a heli-biking/walking/skiing business based on its land beside the Winehouse.
As part of the consent it wants permission for up to 25 flights, or 50 helicopter movements, per day between the hours of 8am and 8pm.
On average, that’s one landing or take-off every 15 minutes, although the consent notes the limit is based on a peak day.
It also wants to construct a hangar with space for three choppers.
Havoc Farms wants the application to be non-notified, but that’s left the Gibbston Community Association unimpressed.
Chairman Craig Palmer says: “It’s a dramatic increase in helicopter traffic, and given the bulk of the flights travel down the valley, we believe it will have an impact on more than just those close by.
“We’re not saying we disagree with it, but we think it should be publicly notified.”
It also follows a candidates meeting in Glenorchy last week where prospective councillors were questioned on the issue of informal airports, with many opposed to increasing numbers of private helipads.
Van Asch says he already has a heli-biking business, and this was “just an evolution”.
“Gibbston is an ideal location, because a lot of the biking trails are in that area,” van Asch says.
An acoustic assessment found the noise impacts would be acceptable under the district plan.
The proposal complies with the rules, “that’s all we can do”, he says.
The consent application also points out that the choppers could also be used to ferry visitors to and from other attractions at Gibbston, as well as potentially helping with frost fighting at the valley’s vineyards.
An existing helicopter landing consent is in place at the site, for up to 10 flights per day and no more than 15 a week.
That will be scrapped if the new application is approved.
It’s the second Gibbston tourism business to be revealed in two months.
Back in July, Mountain Scene reported on Oxbow Adventure Co.’s adventure playground at Victoria Flats, which will comprise of jetsprint boats, 4WD off-road buggies, and claybird shooting.
That’s due to open mid-summer.
Van Asch says when he arrived in the Wakatipu, Gibbston was mostly farmland.
“In another 30 years’ time, it’ll look a lot different again.”
Another proposal, this time around housing, is making its way through the Environment Court after initially being rejected by council commissioners.
Gibbston Vines Ltd, whose sole director is Queenstown businessman Graham Wilkinson, applied in 2017 to subdivide an 8.9ha block into six residential lots and a commercial lot.
The appeal was heard last December by Judge John Hassan and commissioners Russell Howie and Glenice Paine, who in an interim decision said the company should be given an opportunity to make changes to address its “identified deficiencies”.
Palmer’s keeping mum on that issue at present, as it’s still going through the court process.