New Tourism Minister Matt Doocey’s not on board with a plan to ban fixed-wing aircraft at Milford Sound — news which has delighted Queenstown’s flightseeing operators.

In 2021, Milford Opportunities Project’s (MOP) former governance group boss, Keith Turner, unveiled plans to close Milford’s airstrip, stating it was in a poor state of repair, beginning to flood at extremely high tides, was very exposed to alpine fault tsunami risk and would be very expensive to rebuild to a modern and sustainable standard.

The plan, met with concern and outrage by fixed-wing operators, who had invested millions in new, larger, quieter aircraft over recent years, was subsequently labelled ‘‘quixotic and utopian’’ by lobby group ‘Save Milford Airport’.

In Queenstown last month, Doocey — fresh from a visit to Milford and Te Anau — told Mountain Scene he wasn’t a fan of parts of the plan.

‘‘I’m not sure I’ve specifically seen the recommendation of closing the [airstrip], but what I saw in the masterplan … was to stop fixed-wing aircraft, which I don’t support.

‘‘I don’t think we should ban fixed-wing aircraft in Milford, nor do I support the proposal to ban cruiseliners, either, and to close the road.

‘‘I don’t think we disagree there’s an issue with the flow of passengers in Milford; my view is I think we need to provide more choice.

‘‘We can look at how we can get more tourists on to buses to in crease the flow and maybe encourage tourists to go at different times of the day … and smooth it out over the shoulder season and off-peak as well.’’

Doocey says he wants MOP’s plan, which, at times, ‘‘can be seen to be doing too much that is not coordinated’’, to reflect ‘‘the voice of New Zealand tourism’’.

‘‘That is our tourism operators, and the plan should be about enabling tourism.’’

Air Milford CEO Hank Sproull says that’s ‘‘one of the best news stories we’ve heard for 2024’’.

He still can’t understand why banning fixed-wing aircraft was ever on the table, noting it had caused untold stress to operators.

‘‘When someone comes along and says they’re going to shut your livelihood down, it puts a bit of angst into the system, doesn’t it?’’

Queenstown Milford User Group chair James Stokes — who’s also Glenorchy Air’s boss — is also elated.

‘‘[The proposal] caused a lot of operators to lose a lot of sleep, I think, and it wasn’t particularly well-researched, as we pointed out, quite clearly.

‘‘I believe it was really an ideological position that the previous chair, Keith Turner, held, rather than a point that was properly researched.’’

Jules Tapper, one of Queenstown’s most experienced aviators, says Doocey’s comments give him ‘‘great hope’’.

‘‘I’m very encouraged.’’

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