Interest in Alexandra airport rising
A British national who owns the largest privately owned and operated airport in the United Kingdom wants to set up a "substantial hangar" and accommodation at Alexandra Airport.
The Central Otago District Council heard an appeal from property officer Brian Taylor at its meeting last week for a "steer" on the airport's future on the back of "ballooning" interest from aviation operators.
"Inquiry kept on following inquiry which proved a need to revisit an earlier peer review concept plan for the development of the airport," Taylor said.
Inquiries from commercial and private operators included strong interest by a British national currently residing out of New Zealand, but wanting to erect a substantial hangar and living accommodation in which to spend six months as a local resident, Taylor said.
"He has wide international business interests and a long involvement in commercial aviation, including ownership of Cotswold Airport in the UK, the largest privately owned and operated airport in Europe ... It would be a strategic coup for Alexandra airport to gain advantage of his enthusiasm and wide experience in business and aviation, both as a pilot and administrator."
Taylor said currently the infrastructure at the airport was "basic and inadequate for future expansion".
"The sealed runway has seen no maintenance to the pavement since it was laid during the 1980s other than the occasional spraying for weeds breaking through the seal and a two-metre wide strip beside the runway," Taylor says in his report to council.
"The tarmac has become brittle through age and is susceptible to chip loosening on aircraft touch-down, sharp turns or heavy braking."
The estimated cost to improve those three areas was $500,000.
"The community can make a call on it, but I would like some indication from council whether we hang on to the airport or let it go. I know what I would like to see. I believe it has got a future but it needs investment."
Councillors questioned the airport's ability to be self-funding.
The airport's income from lease rental was $20,000, but that could increase to about $35,000 with rentals from the proposed new hangars.
Income could also be generated from surrounding land being leased to farmers, and other ventures such as drag racing.
"It seems like a lot of money to let rich boys play with their toys," Councillor Shirley Calvert said.
Council property and facilities manager Mike Kerr said it was more about what those people would bring to the area.
"They will be living here ..."
The council approval the plan in principle, with the condition the airport become self-funding.
The Southland Times