The Wānaka App
The Wānaka App
It's Your Place
The Wānaka App

‘Urgency needed’ for Wānaka Airport planning

The Wānaka App

Maddy Harker

21 April 2024, 5:06 PM

‘Urgency needed’ for Wānaka Airport planningWānaka Airport

The Wānaka Upper Clutha Community Board (WUCCB) wants consultation for the Wānaka Airport masterplan to begin this calendar year.

Board chair Simon Telfer said he has been advocating for this in his monthly meetings with Queenstown Lakes District mayor Glyn Lewers.

“Wānaka Airport is a strategic community asset and we need clarity on its future,” he said.

“[The] Civil Aviation Authority requires a large amount of money to be spent on the airport to maintain the current level of service. 

“It would be sensible to invest this money with an understanding of the airport’s future strategic direction.”

Wānaka Airport is owned by Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC) and managed by Queenstown Airport Corporation (QAC) under an agreement with council.

QLDC’s relationship with the Wānaka community around the airport has a bumpy history.

A 100-year lease of Wānaka Airport to QAC was approved in 2017, following consultation during 2016/2017, but the High Court ruled it was unlawful in 2021. 

Lobby group Wānaka Stakeholders Group (WSG) was the major driver for the court case, but it failed in its bid for an order restraining QLDC and QAC from taking any steps to develop and operate Wānaka Airport as a dual capable airport with Queenstown Airport.

QLDC then appointed QAC to manage the airport, and “pushed pause” (in the words of former mayor Jim Boult) on plans for development.

Community board members and Wānaka-based councillors expressed their desire to start consultation on a masterplan at a meeting on Thursday (April 18).

“I think the difference about this particular consultation is that rather than the community saying ‘this is what we don’t want for the airport’ it is giving us a chance to say what we do want for the airport,” Simon said.

Councillor Cody Tucker said there was an opportunity to “build engagement in something people are already interested in talking about.”

Councillor Lyal Cocks said there was “real urgency needed” to get consultation underway. 

“This plays into how the airport is going to be funded in the future and how it’s going to be managed into the future,” he said.

It needs “big picture, long-term” thinking, councillor Barry Bruce added. 

The council is aware of “the growing desire from the Wānaka community to have this conversation,” QLDC corporate services general manager Meghan Miller told the board at the meeting.

“It’s not lost on council that we have an incredible facility there and an amazing piece of infrastructure.”

Simon said he wanted to be “really careful that this conversation does not drift endlessly” and urged elected representatives to continue to push for consultation to take place.

There are currently no proposals or timeframes for the Wānaka Airport masterplan, “nor when consultation will happen”, a QLDC media advisor said last week.

Go deeper:

PHOTO: Supplied