Queenstown AIrport relocated into Wanaka

Does this make sense to you?

Because we are so used to Queenstown Airport sitting in the middle of Frankton, it is hard to understand how illogical this site is for an expanding international airport.

So for comparison, in the map above we show the airport relocated into a similar position in Wanaka. We have drawn it to scale at the size required for QAC’s options two or three (5.1 million passenger movements).

The geography is similar to Frankton, with an attractive bay opening into a large lake, and hilly terrain on either side that would similarly amplify the aircraft noise and channel the prevailing wind usefully along the length of the runway.

Wanaka's retail and cafe area would sit directly adjacent to the airport boundary as does Frankton's The Landing, Frankton Village Shopping Centre, and Remarkables Park. Wanaka's New World supermarket would also be conveniently close in the same way Frankton's New World, Countdown and Pak'nSave nestle alongside Queenstown Airport. The location of Three Parks development in Wanaka mirrors that of Five Mile and even the new Wanaka Recreation Centre would have the same proximity as the Queenstown Events Centre.

About 174 homes would need to be bought and levelled, more than in Frankton, but then Frankton has had a head start with several homes already removed.

Aircraft noise would become an issue for those in the vicinity. Especially with the forecast four flights per minute during peak hours and operational hours from 6am to 10pm. There would be the nuisance effect of needing to stop conversations outdoors for a minute or two every four minutes during peak times as planes land or take off. Some suggest that this impacts on learning, but there would be no schools immediately adjacent this Wanaka location, as there are on Frankton Flats.

All the properties shown in the map above would fall within the designated noise boundaries – plus another 3,000 other properties to the immediate south and either side of Roy’s Arm.

At first these noise boundaries would only extend 5 km out each end of the runway, to Beacon Point out west and Mount Barker Road to the east. But with the inevitable growth that is forecast for the next 30 years, they're bound to expand.

A loss of development rights would directly impact on the owners of some 4,500 Wanaka properties that would fall within the noise boundaries. This would restrict their potential to have “activities sensitive to airport noise” – such as houses, childcare centres, schools, hospitals and the like.

New compliance requirements such as acoustic insulation and mechanical ventilation systems, rather than open windows or doors, would be required for any new developments or renovations – a financial cost and loss of lifestyle for property owners. Wide opening bi-fold or sliding doors to enhance indoor–outdoor flow would, for example, drop off the plans of Three Parks and other new developments within the noise boundaries. Residents purchasing homes in these new subdivisions would need to sign ‘no complaints’ covenants to prevent ‘reverse sensitivity’ objections to future airport expansion.

An advantage of this Wanaka location would be the ability to extend its runway out to Cardrona River. This could open new markets direct from Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, enabling more visitors to drop in for a weekend.

A silly idea?


Okay, the above scenario for Wanaka is hypothetical and even with the best marketing in the world, it would never win support from locals or gain consents through the courts. The people of Wanaka would unquestionably prefer the hour's drive to Queenstown when they need to catch a plane.

And yet this outrageous proposal to locate an international airport into the middle of Wanaka is precisely the strategy QAC and Mayor Boult seek to lock into Frankton.

QAC’s aspiration, according to CEO Colin Keel is to "contribute to the region's economic development and wellbeing of its communities" and desire to "support and provide value to the communities we serve" (ZQN News May 2019).

We think Mr Keel would agree that locating the airport into Wanaka as described above would run entirely counter to these aspirations.

How then - when there are alternative rural options for a regional airport that are more central for their market and offer better operational and financial outcomes - is it not clear to Mr Keel and QAC directors that expanding Queenstown Airport within Frankton is the wrong thing to do?

And how is it not clear to our councillors. With 75.01% ownership of QAC, they have absolute control over QAC's strategic objectives and the nature and scope of its activities. 

The extraordinary thing - once you can see how the Queenstown Airport cuckoo has chucked the community from its Frankton nest - is how come the cuckoo's takeover coup is not obvious to everyone?

Partly, we think, because change from the status quo seldom is. But also, because unravelling the financial and other costs of an option that is neither discussed nor favoured by QAC or QLDC is difficult.

Perhaps the best explanation is from the slowly boiling frog analogy, as explained by Al Gore.

We think it's time for the frog to wake up!

Help us wake up this frog.

The boiling frog syndrome as explained by Al Gore in this video speaks directly to the difficulty people have with any change from the status quo. When you are used to something, it takes bold thinking to imagine there might be a better way. Once imagined, it can still be a daunting challenge to actually change direction onto a new path.