The owners of Christchurch Airport have revealed they’ve spent $42 million to acquire land for a new international airport on the South Island – but face fierce opposition from a 68-year-old homeowner refusing to sell up and make way.
The business wants to create a new terminal in Tarras, an hour’s drive from the ski resort town of Wanaka, that would be capable of welcoming planes from Australia.
However, Central Otago farmer Philip Parcell, whose 40-hectare cattle farm would need to be demolished, has become the last person on his block to refuse to move.
“I have lived here all my life and this is my home,” he told New Zealand publication Stuff. “It’s very unsettling. I don’t want to leave it. The move would be a real wrench. I would prefer to drop dead here.”
Parcell, who lives alone, told the website he has an emotional attachment to his land and has been approached nearly a dozen times by interested buyers since he moved there 42 years ago.
“I’ve held out. I didn’t want to sell the farm. This place means everything to me.”
The opposition to the development bears an uncanny resemblance to the hit Australian film The Castle, which sees the Kerrigan family refuse to sell their home to allow an airport expansion to be built.
Christchurch Airport boss Malcolm Johns attempted to build bridges with those needing to move by saying talking to residents was his “top priority”.
“This is their home and it’s important they are given the opportunity to ask us their questions directly and understand our thinking,” said Johns.
“The conversation has been bubbling around for a couple of years around the availability of aviation infrastructure in the lower South Island.”
The business insists the new airport would only be built when Queenstown has reached maximum capacity, with an opening at least five years away.
“This airport is designed as an ‘and’. So there will be Queenstown ‘and’ this airport. It’s not an either-or. Looking at it over the next 50 years, there’s no question those communities are going to need more infrastructure.”
Should the airport’s plans be successful, it would need to spend up to $400 million more over the next few years. The plans propose a runway capable of withstanding A320 jets but not larger planes such as 777s or A380s.
Air New Zealand chief operating officer Carrie Hurihanganui supported the proposals, arguing that the existing infrastructure at Queenstown is “insufficient for the long-term”.
“The Southern Lakes region is the jewel in New Zealand’s tourism crown and it is crucial that infrastructure – including airports – is aligned with population growth, community needs, and New Zealand’s future tourism aspirations post-COVID-19,” Hurihanganui said.