Residents rejoice following pause on Tarras airport

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch
Feb 27, 2024 |


Residents in Wanaka are rejoicing following the news first reported by Chris Lynch Media that Christchurch Airport has paused plans to build an airport in the Central Otago locale of Tarras.

On Monday, Christchurch Airport Chief Executive Justin Watson communicated to Christchurch City Holdings Limited (CCHL), the investment arm of Christchurch City Council, the decision to delay further action.

In his letter, Watson mentioned the need for additional time to assess the project’s impacts and to consult with both local and national stakeholders.

The Christchurch Airport Board opted to slow the momentum on the Central Otago airport project, indicating a shift towards a more “cautious approach.”

Wānaka Upper Clutha Community Board (WUCCB) chair Simon Telfer told Chris Lynch Media “the Board has always had concerns for the Upper Clutha, if an international airport was to be developed in Tarras.

This pause in planning is welcomed he said.

“Wānaka would be a sought after first stop for many arrivals at Tarras. The impact of this significantly increased visitor population on our sewage, stormwater, drinking water and roading networks will likely overburden already strained infrastructure.

“Consequently, community facilities could be significantly impacted under further financial constraints.  

“The pressure on a relatively small Upper Clutha ratepayer base to provide the investment required for the anticipated surge in visitor numbers will be substantial” Telfer said.

“The Board fully supports the regenerative approach laid out by Lake Wānaka Tourism and Destination Queenstown’s destination management plans.

“This has moved the focus away from mass tourism to mitigating the impacts of tourism with greater sensitivity for the place and its people.

“It recognises the need to provide guardianship of the natural environment;  the primary attraction to visitors in the first place.

Additionally, the environmental impact and associated emissions of increased air travel run contrary to the District’s Climate Action and Biodiversity Plan.”

Sustainable Tarras residents group chairwoman Marilyn Duxon said “I’m just delighted to see some rational action from CIAL at last, in pausing the development, and to hear that Christchchurch City Council and CCHL have finally recognised what a financial burden an airport in Tarras was likely to be for the citizens of Christchurch.

“There are so many better things the money could be spent on in Christchurch.

“Locally, the people of the Upper Clutha Valley will be extremely relieved to hear that our valley is likely to remain its beautiful, rural self.  

“Now we can get on with more sustainable development, such as the completion of the cycleway along the Clutha, with all the benefits that will bring to our small communities.”

Meanwhile CCHL and the Christchurch Airport Board have agreed against allocating “significant capital” to further explorations of the new airport in the short term.

Glyn Lewers, the Mayor of Queenstown Lakes District, spoke to Chris Lynch Media on Tuesday night, about the decision, saying the responsibility ultimately falls on Christchurch, given its implications for the city’s ratepayers.

“At the end of the day, I’m looking after my own district, and we have an airport, so I’m always looking at things through that lens and making sure we’re looking after our own first.”

Lewers said the proposal generated polarising views.

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch

Chris Lynch is a journalist, videographer and content producer, broadcasting from his independent news and production company in Christchurch, New Zealand. If you have a news tip or are interested in video content, email [email protected]

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