New Zealand currently has four major international airports – Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Queenstown – but soon could add a fifth. The owners of the Christchurch airport recently proposed a new airport near the South Island town of Tarras.
Tarras is a small farming community about 20 miles from Wanaka, the gateway to several South Island ski areas such as Treble Cone and Cardrona. The town is most well known for its merino sheep, which you guessed it, are shorn to produce merino wool. This wool is known for being soft, superfine, and strong, and is used in all sorts of outdoor clothing from socks to base layers.
The Queenstown airport, about 1 hour away from Tarras, is almost at capacity and another airport in the region would boost much needed infrastructure capacity. The new airport would only be built if Queenstown Airport reaches total capacity, as there would be no commercial demand for flights otherwise. Tourism is a major industry in New Zealand and contributes upwards of $40.2 billion towards the economy in annual expenditures. Their neighbor to the West across the Tasman Sea, Australia, makes up almost 40% of all tourists alone.
Almost $42 million has already been spent by the Christchurch owners in land acquisitions alone for the proposed airport. Next up for the ownership group is talking with the locals to learn more about their views and opinions on the potential airport. The proposed airport would include a 2.2-kilometre runway built 750 hectares of land, with an estimated total cost of $350-$400 million. The group projects the airport will open (if approved) by 2030, and said it could open as early as 2026 if the project is expedited. As always, a new airport is a massive undertaking, and with the recent onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, the project will most likely be delayed, if ever approved.
“Our top priority now is a conversation with the people who live closest to the site. This is their home and it’s important they are given an opportunity to ask us their questions directly and understand our thinking.” – Malcolm Johns, Christchurch Airport Boss