1493769522599 - Wanaka pilots fear airport costs increase

Wanaka pilots fear airport costs increase

Recreational pilots are anxious about rises in Wanaka Airport costs as the Queenstown Lakes District Council begins lease negotiations with the Queenstown Airport Corporation.

The council decided on April 20 it would change the governance, following a report by aviation consultants Astral Ltd and community consultation.

The corporation recently purchased 150 hectares of land near Wanaka Airport to protect development opportunities.

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association has about 1000 members, with about 60 in Wanaka.

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A small group told the Wanaka Mirror on April 21 they had asked the council to keep sport and recreational flying affordable.

They want airport development costs split fairly across airport users and the public.

Although cost rises have not yet been signalled, they were concerned commercial development could see large increases in landing fees and hangar costs and force them out.

“All we need is a grass airstrip and a windsock,” pilot Shaun Gilbertson said.

“Any capitalisation over that is other people’s responsibility. But we do acknowledge the airport is an important access point into the Upper Clutha. We are certainly not trying to stifle progress. Costs increases will have to be managed. If they want to place private jets here, they will have to pay for it, not us,” he said.

Queenstown Airport Corporation chairman John Gilks said last week the corporation was looking forward to working with the council on the lease terms “and engaging with the community to develop an airport at Wanaka that we can all be proud of”.

Gilks said the corporation had listened to communities through the council’s consultation process and was “looking forward to having conversations to ensure the future economic development of Wanaka is strong and sustainable”.

The pilots said the squeeze on Queenstown Airport was already pushing recreational pilots to Kingston, Alexandra, Cromwell or Omarama.

Mosgiel pilot Murray Paterson regularly flies into Wanaka. “There is nowhere to park at Queenstown during the day. We don’t want to end up in the same boat,” he said.

Nokomai pilot Brian Hore believed if the Wanaka members took their planes elsewhere, the airport would not function as well.

Hore also feared maintenance workshops might be forced out too, although there did not appear to be many alternatives for them to go.

“It is hard to get resource consent to land anywhere else but Wanaka Airport,” Hore said.

ASTRAL LTD REPORT

Issues covered in the 2016 Astral report included: