As has been correctly pointed out by Mayor Boult and Tim Brown (Chairman, Wellington Airport), the Resource Management consent process for creating a new airport would not be simple and would cost millions of dollars.
Possibly this is one of the reasons that an alternative airport location has not been seriously considered. QAC would simply find it much easier to continue to develop airports that have existing use rights.
But the RMA shouldn’t be seen as an excuse to perpetuate and expand very significant environmental effects upon large population groups. Or to entrench a sub-optimal airport such as Queenstown, or a low performing economic strategy such as the dual airport senario's costly and systemic duplication.
The RMA is concerned with managing the effects of development on our environment. Most cases brought before the Environment Court are those considering entirely new projects, which will materially change the environment in which they are located.
In this instance, however, the argument would revolve around the issue of substitution.
Would it be better to have a new airport, in a new location, (where there would undoubtedly be significant environmental effects), rather than expand existing airports? These airports already have significant detrimental environmental effects on relatively large population groups and those effects would be significantly increased under current plans.
It may be hard to argue for a new airport if it is to be in addition to the dual airport model, (Wanaka with jets and Queenstown), but the argument becomes much simpler if it is one of substitution.
If those airports are taken away from their existing locations, would the environmental benefits accruing outweigh the detrimental effects at the new location?
The argument will not be solely about the new airport on its own. Of necessity it will also consider many of the issues that we have raised in our section titled Everything Gets Better.
There are very significant environmental benefits to Queenstown in terms of Housing, Infrastructure, Public Transport, Environment, not to mention the benefits of reduction in noise and emission pollution on a significant population. A similar argument could be made for Wanaka. All these arguments would enter into the environmental cost/benefit analysis.
This is why the extent of and the terms of reference of the proposed regional Spatial Plan are so important. Potentially the Spatial Plan would produce much of the evidence to back up the new airport model as it would encompass the study of many region wide effects.
The RMA should not be considered as a way of facilitating increased detrimental environmental effects just because it is easier to increase existing established effects.
We believe we can rely upon the Environment Court to allow detrimental effects in one new location when these will be heavily outweighed by significant reductions in environmental harm elsewhere and will produce significant regional environmental benefits.
It is possible that an operator other than QAC could plan and build a new airport. This entity could be a private organization or another airport company.
Christchurch Airport Corporation and at least two private companies have recently looked at the possibility of building a new airport in the region.
The process of building a new airport would rely substantially on satisfying the requirements of the Resource Management Act (RMA). This is not a simple process and may in part be the reason QAC have not shown any serious intent to consider a new airport when they already have the rights to operate Queenstown and Wanaka.
The Resource Management process would be significantly simplified if the project had the backing of central government and could be designated a Nationally Significant Project. While this doesn’t reduce the rigor required to prove such an airport meets the requirements of the RMA, it does cut out some preliminary/doubled up layers of hearings.
Relocation of the airport to a new site might entail the following steps:
To achieve the optimum result for Frankton, the redevelopment of the current airport land would require a detailed design process similar to that which happened at Hobsonville.
The best entity to carry this out may well be the new Kainga Ora ministry as this ministry would have the powers to achieve a holistic result.
We put forward our own Vision for Frankton as an example of what could be achieved here. The actual plan will need much more detailed consultation, research and planning and Kainga Ora would be well placed to carry this out.
Kainga Ora have powers to deal with housing, transport links, commercial and industrial buildings, new infrastructure, parks and open spaces and supporting facilities (such as schools, libraries and swimming pools). The ministry would be able to:
The time required to plan, consent and construct a new airport is significant.
The construction time for Wellcamp (see section) was 19 months, but this is much shorter than could be achieved here. In addition, the Spatial Plan, identification of a new airport site and the RMA consenting process could take three or four years.
The complete timetable is likely to be in the region of seven to eight years.
How do we deal with the growth in passenger numbers in the interim? QAC would need to work within the existing ANBs at Queenstown. Diverting some passenger growth to the existing airport at Wanaka with turboprop services and working with Dunedin and Invercargill airports would help take the overflow.
The existing ANBs will also accommodate more growth in passenger movements with current and future improvements in technology. Already, fleet changes from A320s to the longer A321s by both Jetstar and Air NZ offer a 25% increase on current capacity. The newly developed engines for the A321neo will be quieter, allowing for an increase of flights within the current noise limits, which will further increase capacity through Queenstown Airport.
The timeframe for the development of the airport land at Frankton would be similarly lengthy. There would be a steadily growing demand for residential property in this new development, but this can’t be developed all at once.
It would take time to release the land value of the airport land. However, we have shown that the land value is increasing at a much higher rate than the CPI or the Construction Cost Index, so the delayed release of land value would not disadvantage the owner, be it QAC or some other entity.
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