Airfield misses out on flight benefits

Pukaki Airport
Pukaki Airport

Pukaki Airfield does not meet the standard to cash in on the resumed trial flights to Aoraki-Mt Cook.

Air New Zealand subsidiary Mt Cook Airline will run a thrice-weekly service, from today to January 27.

It is the first time flights will go to Aoraki-Mt Cook since 2002, but Pukaki Airfield Board member Rick Ramsay said the airport would not get any benefit.

"We had talked to Air New Zealand throughout the year, and hoped there could be the chance of the Pukaki airfield for alternate landings, but our infrastructure would not be able to handle the ATR aircraft," he said. The 68-seat ATR aircraft will fly from Christchurch to Mt Cook airfield near the Hermitage Hotel, and then carry on to Queenstown, with a return service departing mid-afternoon.

"It was too expensive for us to upgrade our infrastructure without any guarantee of any benefits. It's frustrating, but we're keeping a watching brief, perhaps things could change in the future," Mr Ramsay said.

The board would consider upgrading Pukaki airfield's infrastructure if the service became more frequent, he said.

The board presented its financial report at the Mackenzie District Council meeting this week: it recorded a deficit of $72,000 for the year, but had reserves of $116,000.

However, Mr Ramsay was pleased that three businesses were using its hangar services, while Air Safaris would shift one of its offices onto one of the airfield's sections.

"We're installing signage at each end of the airport on the state highway, we think it's time to acknowledge there are businesses using the field," Mr Ramsay said.

In 2008, the board repaid the council the original land purchase price of $530,000, after it subdivided the surrounding land into 55 lots.

Board chairman Derek Kirke said more than 35 lots had been sold, but one deposit-paid sale had not been completed.

"The owner has struck very hard times as a result of the Christchurch earthquake," he said.

"We have given him a deadline of March next year to complete."

The Timaru Herald