Michael Singleton, Project Manager of the Tarras Airport Project and General Manager of Corporate Affairs, Christchurch International Airport, was in town last week to engage with the local community.
Michael emphasised the long-term nature of the project.
In July 2020, Christchurch Airport announced that it had acquired 750 hectares of land at Tarras and were assessing the feasibility of building a regional airport there. In September 2021, they published a Preliminary Aeronautical Assessment report, which committed to ensuring that there would be ‘thorough and robust’ investigations and to sharing information as it becomes available.
In that publication, a timeline suggested that the 2022-2023 progress will involve validation of the key points of the report, and that the three years after that would involve seeking approvals for the project to proceed. Michael was keen to point out that they were not the decision-makers in this debate.
He said that airport planning had a 50-year time span, and that currently the findings were around, “Does it make sense?”.
The indicative timeframe would suggest that any completion date would be in 2029 or beyond.
I spoke to Chris Goddard, Chairperson of Sustainable Tarras. The group has conducted a survey which had a 41% participation rate. Results of this survey showed that 83% of Tarras people thought that the airport was a ‘bad’ or ‘very bad’ idea.
“What the entire community agree on is that they want a vibrant future for Tarras,” says Chris. The debate is on what that means, and whether the airport would progress that aim or hinder it.
Michael puts the Tarras community’s opinions as approximately one third for, one third against, and one third undecided at this point. He believes that the Sustainable Tarras survey was biased towards those against the project, because they were the people most likely to respond to the group’s survey.
For this year, Michael says he is focused on ‘getting really good quality information’, adding,
“We want to have genuine engagement through the life of the project, and this is about creating the opportunity for all voices to be heard.” For further information: centralotagoairport.co.nz and tarras.org.nz