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“Time for us to drive our future”

“Time for us to drive our future”

Queenstown tells QLDC to think beyond boundaries.

“It’s not the airport’s job to define our future.” That’s the majority Queenstown Lakes community view of the QAC’s announcement on its expansion proposal, according to an expansive new community and business stakeholder group.

The Queenstown Stakeholders Group (QSG) is making a strong submission to the QLDC to fulfil its statutory role and function, “ensuring decisions about growth are well researched and planned and above all else, sustainable.”

QSG formed recently following the substantial negative response to Queenstown Airport’s projected expansion and noise level consultations. The group includes local tourism businesses, residents’ associations, and interested members of the public.

“The conversation started by the QAC has triggered strong reactions among both business and residential communities, and risks a divisive pro-growth or anti-tourism stance which hurts our communities, our reputation and our potential,” says Frankton Community Association chair and Queenstown Stakeholders Group spokesperson Glyn Lewers.

“While we welcome their announcement today to hit pause, we are confident that within the next two years they intend to try again through a private plan change. This is a fundamental tipping point; we have said no to the airport driving the future of the district, and we will continue to do so.

“Almost 12,000 residents, 80% of Queenstown tracks and trails, schools, preschools, sports grounds, lakefront, river frontage and the hospital will be significantly impacted by the adverse effects of increased noise levels and frequency of aircraft movements,” says Glyn. “That’s not going away.”

“The residential and business community, and Queenstown and Wanaka, have far more in common than we might think. This is especially our shared desire for our communities to plan for our future, not have the airport numbers drive growth for which we are poorly prepared.”

QSG’s submission to the QLDC calls on the Council to recognise that it cannot ignore the social, economic and cultural interests of its people and communities. The Airport’s intention announced today, to focus first on expanding Wanaka airport, is not an appropriate alternative to having a strategic, district-wide plan, in the views of the QSG.

“We are telling our Council that it is high time to pause and reflect on unbridled growth, and move to lead a genuine community-based consultation on planning for and managing sustainable growth of our entire district,” says Glyn. “We need to think about the dispersal of tourism movements to maximise the benefit for our region and for New Zealand, rather than just shifting the problem to an as-yet unspoiled destination.”

There are a number of underutilised airports in the region. QSG wants an inclusive, strategic and visionary conversation, thinking about integrating transport and the visitor experience so that there is better, considered distribution of the benefits of tourism.

“Our communities are facing a very high risk of the loss of amenity values which both bring people to Queenstown Lakes as visitors, and are valued by our residents.

“We are looking forward to talking with our Wanaka friends and associates as they start to understand the impact of QAC’s approach.”

Many objections to the expansion voice fears that Queenstown Lakes’ already creaking infrastructure and environment will be pushed beyond its limits and destroy both the tourism asset and residents’ quality of life. QSG maintains that these issues need to be front-footed with appropriate planning and funding, not mitigated after the fact.

“Growth needs to be measured, planned, and sustainable in every sense, for both residents and visitors to enjoy,” says Glyn.

The negative impacts of the airport expanding and increasing flights to Queenstown Airport are damning and real. There is no benefit to our primary destinations such as Queenstown becoming a transport hub, and ruined as a destination.

“Queenstown is at risk of becoming just a noisy and chaotic airport hub,” says Glyn. “There is also a growing global trend of local residents feeling the negative impact of uncontrolled tourism growth and we need to be smarter than that. This starts with a destination management plan and funding mechanism to enable that plan, agreed by the community, in place.

“Kudos to the airport for starting the conversation, but they should not be driving the direction of Queenstown Lakes – not now, not ever.”

© Scoop Media

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