Golf club handicaps skydive expansion plan

GRANT BRYANT IN QUEENSTOWN
Last updated 05:00 28/05/2014

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A bid by a Queenstown skydive company to boost "jump flights" from an airstrip next to a renowned golf course has been declined.

Skydive Queenstown, trading as NZone, was refused resource consent to increase parachute jumps from 35 daily to 75 from its base near Jacks Point in an Environment Court decision earlier this month.

When NZone started in 1990 Jacks Point did not exist.

It now has 90 homes and a renowned golf course.

Jacks Point Club membership and the profits reaped from big-spending international golf tourists were factors in Judge Jon Jackson's decision.

"We find that Jacks Point ... is of very high standard, even by international standards. The existing operations of Skydive Queenstown ... do diminish that quality ..."

NZone employs 60 to 70 staff during its summer peak.

Company owner Lindsay Williams is currently overseas. No employees had yet heard a ruling had been issued.

However, well-known Queenstowner and former golf pro turned course designer Greg Turner, who was appointed chairman of Golf Tourism New Zealand which aims to ramp estimated yearly spending by international golf tourists from $145 million to $223m in 2017, told The Southland Times the court decision was not one he would necessarily celebrate, because it impacted on other tourism.

"I'd be very hesitant to talk about the skydive industry, but golf tourism is definitely growing," he said.

"I will say that having low-flying planes flying close over a golf course in the minds of many, would detract from a golf game. I have played Jacks Point a lot, and am familiar with the parachuting planes, and would say that they do not add to the golfing experience."

Golfing interests were represented at court by former golf pro, turned "golf ambassador" and commentator, Phil Tataurangi, Kauri Cliffs and Cape Kidnappers PGA director of golf Ryan Brandeburg and golf travel consultant Alastair Tod.

Brandeburg is a key figure with the Tiger Tour, organised by the Robertson family, owners of Queenstown's Matakauri Lodge, Hawke's Bay's Cape Kidnappers and Northland's Kauri Cliffs golf resorts.

The tour hosts couples on a nine-day, $58,000 per couple golf tour leapfrogging from each property via private jet and helicopter. Mid-tour, couples stay at Matakauri Lodge and play a round at Jacks Point.

In written evidence Brandeburg said one couple, Americans Harvey and Carol Ann Mackay, said they would not return to Jacks Point.

"[They] commented that while they loved Jacks Point, they would not return due to the skydivers buzzing them on every shot."

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