At KPCA’s hustings meetings preceding the 2019 and 2022 Queenstown Lakes District Council elections, candidates attending proceeded on the basis that the growth of Queenstown airport operations should be constrained in response to community anxieties about over-tourism, of which the continued expansion of aircraft and passenger movements was a significant aspect. Eventually this understanding was reflected in the full Council’s direction that Queenstown Airport Corporation (QAC), as its Council Controlled Trading Organisation, should plan its operations so as not to require an expansion of the current Air Noise Boundaries (ANBs). In response, QAC acknowledged in 2022 that this is what it would do for the next 10 years.
It has now become apparent that a commitment to live within the existing ANBs is no substantive
constraint at all: by its proposed Master Plan, QAC is planning to grow its operations by 33% in
terms of passenger movements (from 2.4M to 3.2M) and 23.5% in terms of aircraft movements
(from 17,900 to 22,112) over the next 9 years. (This growth was first proposed in QAC’s 10-year
Strategic Plan, published last year, but on which there was no public consultation.)
Based on the community feedback to the July 2018 proposal to expand the ANBs, KPCA considers such growth falls outside the scope of the social licence granted by the community to QAC. By equating what may be permissible within the ANBs (“through a combination of advances in aircraft technology, including larger and quieter narrow-body aircraft, and effective management of existing noise boundary capacity“) with the extent of its social licence, QAC is hollowing out that licence to the point of it being meaningless.
KPCA has raised this directly with QAC in a submission in response to the draft Master Plan; and with the Council in a submission on the latest Statement of Intent at its full Council meeting on 29 June. (Both these submissions are available to be read on the Submissions page of this website.) As we expected, it was too late in the annual process for the Council to consider the extent of the Airport’s social licence at its June meeting, but KPCA reserved the right to challenge the acceptability of the proposed growth rates during the process next year.
To make that challenge effective, we need as a community to debate what we collectively think about the social licence. We propose to hold that debate at our next general meeting, fixed for 18 October 2023 at 7p.m. at the Queenstown Golf Clubhouse. Details to follow near that date.