However the opponents of the proposed airport are jumping the gun. Yes the manner in which they received the news might not have been ideal, but that does not change the fact that this is far from a done deal.
A resource consent application of this size will almost certainly be deemed discretionary by Otago Regional Council, meaning that the council would able to exercise its discretion on any number or combination of aspects pertaining to the airport. It also has a number of steps that would need to be followed (though perhaps not quite in the order set down here) that need to be actioned.
- Property acquisition, either under the Public Works Act or by sale to the applicant is inevitable.
- Iwi would need to be consulted
- A requiring authority may need to issue a designation
- The application is most certainly going to have to be publically notified. As such it means that the public will then be invited make submissions on the proposal – as well as submissions from a range of community, environmental, economic interest groups
All of the above and a range of other steps would need to happen before resource consent hearings could take place. The resource consent hearings themselves could take years to get through. As with any resource consent application, a basic rule of thumb applies in that the bigger the application the more complex the information that will be needed will be. Building a single story 3 bedroom house is one thing; building an airport of any size, let alone one that could take an A320 short haul aircraft is quite another.
It is also possible in the COVID19 economic environment that the proposal collapses under its own weight. This could happen because the demand for extra airport capacity may take too long to materialise and C.I.A.L. decide it is simply not worth the effort any longer. And indeed, C.I.A.L. cannot see a business case for building a new airport happening until Queenstown airport reaches capacity.
To be honest though I was frankly quite surprised to hear that C.I.A.L. were even considering this, when there is hardly any international demand for flights. Their assumption is clearly that New Zealand will bounce back quickly within a few years and Queenstown reaches capacity relatively quickly. With COVID19 showing no sign of slowing down anytime time soon around the world and our borders being closed indefinitely, I envisage it being years before we event reach the stage where C.I.A.L. are even ready to apply for resource consent.
So, I think if I were the people of Tarras, I would stop worrying about it for the immediate future. At this stage, aside from being a fancy idea on paper and a couple of properties sold to C.I.A.L., my guess is that the lodging of resource consents is at least 5 years away.