Christchurch International Airport Ltd’s (CIAL) Tarras airport presents an enormous opportunity for Queenstown, our district and the region. It could allow us to close Queenstown Airport without the need to pay for a new one.
The idea of closing this airport is scary for a lot of people. Frequent flyers strongly resist their potential loss of convenience. Many in business have expressed concern that an extra 50-minute drive would cause the collapse of the Queenstown tourist economy. Those rightly concerned about the environment are deeply concerned. The idea seems to elicit a visceral reaction in many.
FlightPlan2050 have spent over 3000 hours investigating the potential relocation of Queenstown Airport and urban development of Frankton Flats. The research has been invigorating for the extraordinary potential and positive outcomes found in almost every sphere. Positive for economic prosperity, for social well-being and for the environment, including the reduction of carbon emissions per person.
That CIAL plans to build an international airport at Tarras makes the case even more robust.
This means the more than $1.2 billion potential land value at Frankton could be returned to QAC’s owners, providing a massive $900 million directly to Council to enable unprecedented investment in the infrastructure and community amenities our district needs.
And best of all, it would enable Wakatipu’s urban development over the next many decades to be concentrated onto Frankton Flats. A much better prospect than continuing the high-emission and environmentally damaging, developer-led urban sprawl, congested roads and thinly spread infrastructure networks throughout the Wakatipu Basin.
Our district could pivot from the low-paid tourism industry with its growth focus on increased tourist numbers to the promotion of high-value, knowledge enterprise. On Frankton Flats, we could create, as Sir Paul Callaghan extolled, “a place where talent wants to live.”
The high-density urban campus concept promoted by FlightPlan2050 would specifically target high-value, knowledge-based enterprise integrated with high-density residential accommodation on the land currently occupied by the airport. Knowledge industries thrive on the concentration of talent. The Frankton Flats – flat, sunny and central to the needed infrastructure, active and public transport and community facilities like schools, library and the Events Centre – is perfectly suited for such urban density.
Diversification of our economy offers the best way to manage tourism growth and densification of urban development is the surest way to reduce emissions per person. Frankton Flats offers a unique opportunity to achieve both these with one action and a single regional international airport at Tarras could enable this change within a few years.
It’s a natural candidate for the expedited Covid-response resource consent process, in terms of jobs and resetting national infrastructure spend for the greatest economic, environmental and community long-term benefits.
Three international airports within an hour of each other would not meet such a test. Nor would continuing with an airport severely constrained by mountains, community opposition and thousands of neighbours when the land could be put to much better use.
Instead of doubling down on last century’s “business-as-usual,” this is a time to be open-minded and look for what’s best for the region and our country. Our community needs people to seriously engage with these ideas. To be curious and to ask questions. To look beyond self and business interest and consider instead the whole community and region. Let’s make the effort to explore.
Convenience is possibly the strongest factor in shaping local's view on this topic. The four most prevalent counter-arguments we have heard are:
But in making a decision to keep the airport in Frankton, we must consider the cost. The convenience of having the airport in Frankton means:
These things aren't hypothetical, can't be refuted and shouldn't be ignored. They are as plain as a decision to buy a season ski pass will reduce your bank account by $800.
This is a critical time with big issues at stake. It's a time where we could choose a new path or stick with the old. We hope the choices people make will at least be based on good information. Then, when they choose the convenience of saving 50 minutes drive a couple of times a year ahead of $900 million of community infrastructure and amenities, we could accept they thought about it and have chosen what they think is best for our communities.
With regard to GA and proximity for tourism businesses:
Thanks for reading, if nothing else it's food for thought.
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