Frankton Vision - urban planning proposal for Frankton without Queenstown Airport

VISION - Frankton without the airport

It started with an elephant!

At the Shaping Our Futures forum in September 2018, participants were asked what characterises our people and what were their aspirations for the community. Answers for the first included peaceful, welcoming, vibrant, passionate and community centred. Answers for the second included liveable, peaceful, connected and community.

They were then asked what obstacles they thought might block these aspirations. The resounding answer was - the airport. But in subsequent consultation forums run by Queenstown Lakes District Council such as the district's billion dollar transportation plan, discussion regarding relocation of the airport was studiously excluded - it hovered as the "elephant in the room".

This and the overwhelmingly negative response by all sectors of the community to Queenstown Airport Corporation's proposal in September 2018 to expand its noise boundaries, were "penny drop" moments for urban planners and architects David Jerram and Gillian Macleod. It caused them to consider how they might help achieve the community's aspirations and how Frankton might look if the airport was relocated.

They wanted to show an alternative vision - one that would create a thriving and fantastically liveable village that could become the heart of our district. Instead of a patchwork of special housing areas and suburbs sprouting everywhere across the Wakatipu, none having the commercial, recreational, or educational mix needed for a cohesive community, they proposed an alpine village centered in Frankton.

The images below show the process by which they developed their vision. It's not a final answer, as if the proposal to develop Frankton were adopted then a substantial consultation and urban design process would be needed, but it does give us a chance to visualise the potential.

QLDC has since commissioned an $840,000 study to produce a 30 year Masterplan for Frankton. With their refusal to consider relocation of the airport, their Masterplan offers a timely opportunity to contrast two alternative futures.

More than Frankton

These penny drop moments caused us, a small group of local residents, to question the inevitability of growth and of the current location of the airport. We engaged in some 'blue sky thinking' to look outside the box. We researched and investigated. What we found surprised us.

Our investigation indicated that relocating the airport would have significant positive effects across almost all sectors. It would not just be better for Frankton, but also for the whole Wakatipu, Wanaka, and the region. Better for the community, tourism, local transport, the environment, and global climate change. Better financially for housing affordability, for ratepayers, for the airlines, and for Queenstown Airport Corporation.

We encourage you to read other sections of this website to learn how.


Overview of constraints

David and Gillian's starting point was to leave surrounding zoning in place and use the airport land mainly for residential development so as not to compete with existing land owners and developers. 

Frankton Vision - developing Frankton without Queenstown Airport

Finding opportunities

 The next step was to identify the opportunities. Key among these would be the ability to connect  the northern and southern retail areas, and the chance to link all of Frankton Flats to the lake, the sport and recreation reserves, and to the river. 

Frankton Vision - developing Frankton without Queenstown Airport

Key design moves

The next step was an important one. It's where the major decisions are made regarding the general layout of the village. It determines the placement and flow of all of the components that make up the development. For this, their key moves were:

  1. Develop the airport land primarily for medium and high density residential. This avoids any conflict of interest with the current developers and owners of private land in Frankton. This would provide for 5,000 dwelling units, enough for and additional 12,500 residents. For a more full understanding of why high density residential is the best use of this space, see their reasoning in a section below.
  2. Retain helicopters and other future vertical lifting aircraft at the eastern end, where the river systems provide natural flying corridors, and create a district transport hub next to this area. Helicopters will always remain an essential part of our economy and this provides a quality, dedicated space that is embedded within a central transport hub.
  3. Create a linear park with water features within the residential development. This non-traffic boulevard provides a central connector through the community, linking it visually and physically to the lake.
  4. Create a broad pedestrian overpass to cross the highway to allow free flow from the boulevard to the lakeside reserve.
  5. Create connections through to existing land holdings and land users. All these connections will prioritise pedestrian and other non-vehicular traffic. Car parking moves from the street to the basement.
  6. Re-purpose the airport buildings for community and council facilities, business or convention centre. After decades of failed attempts to develop cultural and conference centers in our district, here is a perfectly opportunity.
  7. Develop the lakeside reserve for community use. 


Transport routes and connections

The existing main roads surrounding the area continue to work as currently developed, routing traffic around the township while allowing access at multiple points.

An inner circulation route provides opportunity for effective and constant public transport.

Internal roads and alleyways provide low impact transport options, while retaining supply access to all areas. People are prioritised over vehicles, with limited roadside parking.

All key community assets including schools, shops, sporting facilities, recreational areas, community centres and major transport links are easily accessed, with minimal need for private vehicle use.

Frankton Vision - developing Frankton without Queenstown Airport

Reserves and Green Spaces

Good access to high quality reserves and green spaces provides a healthy and replenishing environment.

Frankton Vision - developing Frankton without Queenstown Airport

The Master Plan

The ability to locate 5,000 dwelling units accommodating 12,5000 residents within Frankton Flats reduces pressure to carve up the Wakatipu Basin.

Carefully developed zoning and planning rules, modelled in the Hobsonville development, would provide flexible and attractive development options while reducing consent costs.

Intensive development would greatly reduce the per-person cost of building infrastructure such as roading, sewerage, power and so relieves pressure on rates.

It would Provide a wonderfully livable community within the heart of the Wakatipu. An alpine village, with development scope to manage the growth pressures in this district for decades to come.

Frankton Vision -developing Frankton Flats without Queenstown Airport

Why Residential?

Why would high density residential development be the best use of Frankton Flats and the airport land?  We think the reasons are compelling.

Without this our district becomes a spread patchwork of special housing areas and suburbs, with none having the commercial, cultural, recreational, or educational mix needed for a cohesive community. The unique character of our district would devolve into an american style development that requires car centric transport into shopping malls clustered about the noisy industrial airport zone.

Contrast this with a european style alpine village or even Whistler in Canada, where people are in the center of the community. The easy proximity to everything makes walking the preferred mode of transport. Children walk or cycle safely to schools that are close, to sports just down the road and to their friends who live nearby. Parents can walk to the supermarkets, stroll to the cafes or to their work. The cultural center shows and restaurants wouldn't need car trips and associated parking.

A vibrant, peaceful and livable community that becomes the living, sporting and cultural heart of our district. As a flat, sunny, substantial and central site, it is our cheapest place to build. It is the most efficient place to locate the sewerage and other infrastructure, with the intensity making it the lowest cost per dwelling of any alternative and using the least construction or operating resources. It would substantially reduce dependency on vehicles and increase the viability of public transport, as well as increasing the use of active options such as cycling, scooters and walking.

We have heard some refer to Queenstown Airport as the 'heart' of our community. A steroid accelerating economic growth perhaps, but it saddens us to anticipate that the best heart we might focus on in this stunning district with its passionate people is the industrial zone.

An incomplete list of the many advantages of creating a high density residential zone in the heart of our district includes:

  • The airport land is flat, inexpensive to develop for housing and close to services such as stormwater and sewage. The land can be developed to a comprehensive plan.
  • Housing density will enable much of the housing to be affordable.
  • The housing would be within walkable distance to schools, shops, health facilities, recreational and community facilities, businesses and workplaces.
  • The new housing together with all these facilities will form a nucleus for Queenstown.
  • There is space for parks within the housing areas.
  • The community will have easy access to the lake, rivers and existing green spaces.
  • The community can be designed with internal transport routes that avoid the need to use the main highways
  • There is space to build or add to health, schools and community facilities
  • The concentration of population makes community facilities more useful and economic.
  • There is space for a large transport hub. The addition of 10,000 more people in this area will make alternative transport options, such as a gondola, more economic.
  • Frankton will become all that is envisaged in Shaping Our Future, a peaceful, connected community with access to all facilities, recreation and a beautiful outdoor environment.