Warning of 'yobs' on late flights

SUE FEA IN QUEENSTOWN
Last updated 13:50 13/08/2012

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Angry Frankton residents urged the Queenstown Airport Corporation to back off opening up night flights, with one resident saying it was likely to encourage "yobs to come over from Aussie" for a weekend's skiing and cause problems with alcohol.

Airport corporation chief executive Scott Paterson was addressing the Frankton Residents Association annual general meeting at the airport last week attended by more than 60 people.

Frankton resident Barbara Williams said she was all for growth, but besides the noise factor, safety of night flights was paramount with a hospital, St Johns Ambulance base and residential homes under the flight path.

Ms Williams said she was promised years ago during the push to bring Boeing 737's into Queenstown that there would "never be night flights".

"We're making Queenstown so accessible to a lot of people with no money. Yobs come over from Aussie skiing for the weekend and the skifields benefit. We run the perpetual risk of something going wrong ... and all they do is come here, get drunk and go home," Ms Williams, who works in the film industry, said.

Despite the big numbers of visitors in town, many retailers were finding it tough, she said.

Resident Don Wallace said the corporation would "kill the goose that lays the golden egg" if it allowed night flights.

He questioned the 8.30pm or 9.30pm proposal, saying he had heard it could be 11pm or midnight the planes would land.

"Don't fudge the issue. We just don't want these planes coming in and disturbing our peace. Please get the message," he said to a round of applause.

Ladies Mile Pet Lodge owner Keri Lemaire-Sicre said light aircraft noise had been "horrendous" over her property last summer. She had been told it was because the cross runway had been closed, but she said the problem was only going to get worse.

Residents urged the corporation to look at why people came to Queenstown in the first place.

Mr Paterson said the corporation was keen to identify which residents lived where and hear their concerns. Queenstown was "a real gem" and the community needed to decide how to promote itself, the lifestyle and job opportunities it wanted, Mr Paterson said.

There were "a lot of boxes to tick yet" and the corporation was working to convince safety authorities like the Civil Aviation Authority that night flights into Queenstown Airport were safe. It also needed to be sure they were a viable option economically.

The airport's existing consent permitted flight operations between 6am and 10pm, but as a visual flight rules airport, flights could only operate during daylight hours. At present the last flight during winter arrived into Queenstown Airport at 5pm, which put "real pressure" on international flights. It was also "expensive and disruptive" to have aircraft parked up in Queenstown overnight.

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The corporation was very keen to work with Air New Zealand to allow flights from Auckland to arrive in Queenstown at 7pm on a Thursday or Friday, maybe as late as 8.30pm or 9.30pm, allowing people to fly in for the weekend.

- The Southland Times

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