Applications referred to the Environment Court

Find out about applications that have been referred to the Environment Court.

Queenstown Airport Plus

Queenstown Airport Corporation's Notice of Requirement to alter Designation 2 of the Queenstown Lakes District Plan

Lodgement of applications (matters) with EPA

On 23 December 2010, Queenstown Airport Corporation (QAC) lodged with the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) a Notice of Requirement (matter) for alterations to a Designation to provide for the expansion of the Aerodrome. In accordance with section 145(10) of the Resource Management Act 1991, notice of the matter has also been served on the local authority within which the proposal is located, being Queenstown Lakes District Council.

The Notice of Requirement seeks alterations to Designation 2 of the Queenstown Lakes District Plan to facilitate an expansion in airport operations including:

  1. An apron for the loading or unloading of cargo, refuelling, parking or maintenance of Code C aircraft (small to medium-sized aircraft);
  2. An apron for the loading or unloading of cargo, refuelling, parking or maintenance of corporate jets, general aviation and helicopters;
  3. Helicopter, Code C aircraft and general aviation hangers;
  4. Helicopter Final Approach and Take-off areas (FATO);
  5. Helicopter Touch-down and Lift-off area (TALO);
  6. A Fixed Base Operator (FBO) terminal;
  7. The formation of car parking areas;
  8. Buildings and activities for airport related purposes;
  9. Access roads and internal roads;
  10. Any associated infrastructure, earthworks, landscaping and ancillary activities.

On receipt of the application, the EPA had 20 working days to assess the application and make a recommendation to the Minister for the Environment on whether to:

  1. refer the matter to a board of inquiry for decision; or
  2. refer the matter to the Environment Court for decision; or
  3. refer the matter to the local authority

The recommendation from the EPA to the Minister was made on 2 February 2011, to direct the matters to a board of inquiry for decision.

Recommendation of the EPA Plus

To the Hon Dr Nick Smith, Minister for the Environment        

  1. The Environmental Protection Authority recommends, under section 146 of the Resource Management Act 1991, that you make the following direction on the Notice of Requirement lodged with the Environmental Protection Authority by Mitchell Partnerships on behalf of the Queenstown Airport Corporation to alter Designation 2 of the Queenstown Lakes District Plan to extend the existing Designation for Aerodrome Purposes:

a. Agree that this is a proposal of national significance and
b. Direct that this matter be referred to a board of inquiry for decision for the reasons set out in this recommendation.   

Michael Lovett
Acting Director Environmental Protection
Exercising the powers, functions and duties of the Environmental Protection Authority under delegated authority

Matter (Notice of Requirement)

2. The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has reviewed the Queenstown Airport matter lodged pursuant to section 145 of the Resource Management Act 1991 (the RMA) by the Queenstown Airport Corporation (QAC) on 23 December 2010.

3. The Notice of Requirement (NoR) received by the EPA seeks to extend the existing Designation for Aerodrome Purposes to facilitate projected growth and to ensure the continued safe and efficient functioning of the Queenstown Airport.

EPA recommendation on the National Significance of the Matter

4. In preparing its recommendation, the EPA has taken into account whether the matter is a proposal or part of a proposal of national significance, as you are required to do by section 147(2) of the RMA.

5. The requirement to extend the Aerodrome Purposes Designation has been identified by QAC as a result of growth projections for aircraft operations and operational requirements over the next 30 years and a master planning process to identify the most appropriate location and means to provide airport infrastructure and facilities to cater for this growth.

6. QAC consider that the subject site is appropriate for catering for the predicted growth because it is appropriately located adjacent the existing airport and is a generally flat area of mostly undeveloped agricultural land.

7. Taking into account the matters under section 142(3)(c) and (i) of the RMA, the EPA considers that the proposed alteration to a Designation for Aerodrome Purposes is a proposal of national significance, for the following reasons:

(c) affects or is likely to affect a structure, feature, place, or area of national significance

8. Queenstown is a world renowned tourist destination and expansion of the airport is likely to affect Queenstown, which is considered to be a place or area of national significance.

9. Effects will likely relate to the impacts of increased air traffic generated by the facilities provided by the altered designation including noise, landscape impacts and air and ground traffic impacts in addition to the economic impact on the area from increased passenger numbers and aerodrome service delivery.

10. Effects are likely in respect of the use of Queenstown as a destination in itself and as a gateway to the Otago and Southland regions, including Fiordland.

(i) affects or is likely to affect more than 1 region or district

11. Tourism is a key contributor to the country's GDP and the economic effects associated with tourists utilising the Queenstown Airport are likely to extend beyond Queenstown and into the wider Otago region (and further afield into Southland and Fiordland).

12. Queenstown Airport is an international airport and now qualifies as a Specified Airport Company under the Airport Authorities Act 1966 (a Specified Airport is an airport company that, in its last accounting period, received revenue that exceeded $10 million, or such other amount of revenue that the Governor-General may from time to time prescribe for the purposes of this definition by Order in Council). Only Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown Airports have such status.

13. Queenstown Airport is currently the fastest growing airport in Australasia and is pivotal to the economic growth of the Queenstown Lakes District and the Otago and Southland Regions. It is the most significant revenue generating airport outside the three main metropolitan airports in New Zealand.

14. The Queenstown Airport is a strategic transport link, both regionally and nationally for both international and domestic travellers. It is the first destination of some international tourists in New Zealand and impacts the experience of those tourists and their overall perception of this country as a tourist destination.

EPA recommendation to direct to a Board of Inquiry

15. The EPA recommends that the matter be directed to a board of inquiry for decision for the following reasons:

a. The matter is a proposal of national significance as discussed in paragraphs 7 to 14 above.

b. The board of inquiry process outlined in Part 6AA of the RMA provides for a comprehensive assessment of a matter within a streamlined process. The board of inquiry has a set timeframe of 9 months in which to consider the NoR and produce a report on the matter, which provides for more certain decision making time frames.

c.  A board of inquiry process allows for its members to have specific expertise relevant to the proposal such as expertise in land use planning, visual/landscape impact assessment, engineering and a wide range of resource management issues and hearing procedures as well as an understanding of the local community and tikanga Māori.

16. The EPA has enjoyed a positive and cooperative relationship with officers of the Queenstown Lakes District Council, and this recommendation should not be regarded as inferring any deficiency in the capacity of that authority to process the matter.

17. Whilst the EPA recommends that the proposal be heard by a board of inquiry, we advise there would also be merit in the proposal being determined by the Environment Court (however we note the 9-month timeframe that applies to boards of inquiry does not extend to the Environment Court). This is because of the following two reasons:

  • There are currently three plan changes in process that relate to Queenstown Airport that are of interest to this NoR application.  Full details of these plan changes are in Appendix 6.  We note that this NoR application can be determined independently without reliance on the outcome of these plan changes.
  • Verbal feedback from the applicant and the Queenstown Lakes District Council to the EPA is that this proposal will involved limited parties
View of the Applicant

18. In making a direction, section 147(4) requires you to have regard to the views of the applicant.

19. Form 16A of the RMA regulations provides for the applicant to assess why they consider the NoR to be a proposal of national significance and what direction you should make. In Form 16A QAC requests:

"The QAC prefers that this Notice is dealt with by a Minister appointed Board of Inquiry (and considers that) Queenstown Airport is a feature or place of national significance...Queenstown is a nationally significant tourist destination and the airport fulfils an essential role in facilitating visitor movements into and out of Queenstown. Queenstown Airport is essential to the maintenance and enhancement of New Zealand's tourist economy"

View of the Local Authority

20. In making a direction, section 147(4) requires you to have regard to the views of the local authority and their capacity to process the matter.

21. Officials from the EPA sought the views of Queenstown Lakes District Council about what direction you should make in relation to this matter on 23 December 2010. Their view is that "the proposal should proceed with the EPA. The preference is that it be handled by a board of inquiry".

22. In regard to the capacity of local authority the Queenstown Lakes District Council has indicated that they have the capacity to process the matter if requested.

View of the Land Owner

23. Although there is no statutory obligation to the EPA to see the views of the landowner, their views were received by way of letter on 25 January 2011.

24. In summary, the land owner considers that:

  • the proposal is not a matter of national significance;
  • the appropriate process for a decision is via sections 198A to 198M of Part 8 of the RMA;
  • the proposal may set an undesirable precedent.
25.Relevant matters in the letter have been considered by the EPA in forming this recommendation.

Minister's Direction

26. Having received this recommendation, you must consider whether you refer the matter to either a board of inquiry for decision, or the Environment Court or to the appropriate local authority.

27. You can only make a Direction to refer the matter to a board of inquiry or the Environment Court if you consider the matter is a proposal of national significance.

28. In making that Direction, you must have regard to the views of QAC and Queenstown Lakes District Council; the capacity of the local authority to process the matter; and the recommendation of the EPA. You may consider any other factor relevant to the national significance of the proposal, in addition to the 10 factors of section 142(3) of the RMA.

29. There is no statutory timeframe for making your Direction, other than the requirement under section 21 to carry out the functions, powers and duties under the Act as promptly as is reasonable in the circumstances. Cabinet Circular CO (06) 7 (which was issued in relation to ministerial intervention prior to the 2009 amendments to the RMA) requires you to consult with Cabinet on this matter. This should occur prior to making your Direction.

Other Intervention Options

30.The following options are also available to you should you make a Direction to refer the matter to a board of inquiry. They are:

i.Direct that a submission be made on the matter for the Crown, and

ii.Extend the 9 month timeframe for a board of inquiry to determine a matter.

31.Pursuant to section 146(2) the EPA does not recommend that you take either of these intervention options.