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Airport lacks space to park jets

JOHN EDENS
Last updated 05:00 14/12/2012

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Evening commercial flights start this summer in Queenstown but the fastest-growing airport in New Zealand has no more room to park private jets, the chief executive told tourism representatives yesterday.

Speaking at this year's last Destination Queenstown update, Queenstown Airport chief executive Scott Paterson said passenger numbers were up 18 per cent across the domestic and international markets.

Many international visitors arrived on domestic flights and during December to March the airport expected another eight per cent growth in passenger numbers.

"We are encouraging airlines to put capacity on from east coast Australia to Queenstown. We are getting more planes and those planes are fuller.

"Summer will see the introduction of evening flights."

Air New Zealand was scheduled to start outbound flights from Queenstown to Auckland leaving the resort at 7pm but these flights would not be available in winter, when civil twilight rules forbid flying in low light.

Summer evening flights would be an indication of what was possible and how the airport coped with extended hours of operation, he said.

Corporate jet landings were very strong but the airport needed to put up a "no vacancy" sign because there was not enough room to park so many private aircraft.

Queenstown Lakes District Council chief executive Adam Feeley said the cost of running local government was huge and for every ratepayer in the district there were about 100 visitors.

"Local government has got a new purpose, it's about getting back to basics.

"We have to figure out first what it costs to run. People have got to know what we are spending money on and at the moment even I don't know that."

Aspects of council expenditure such as libraries were pretty lean and getting back to basics was about making sure businesses operated to expected regulatory standards.

There were two big issues to grasp relating to the extent in which the council was involved in economic development, namely the extent of council involvement in large-scale commercial events such as the NZPGA golf tournament and the possibility of building a medium-scale convention centre.

"I know the mayor [Queenstown Lakes Mayor Vanessa van Uden] is very committed to managing costs. Once we tackle that we can start having some fun."

Destination Queenstown chief executive Graham Budd said this year's notable events included the centennial of the TSS Earnslaw, a growth in biking tourism, the celebration of the discovery of gold in the Arrow River and the increased interest in Queenstown and New Zealand from China.

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- The Southland Times

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