30 April 2019

Floatplane Furor

There are currently two applications for floatplane operations that a causing a bit of a furor at Queenstown and Christchurch's Port of Lyttleton

At Queenstown

The Queenstowner behind a failed floatplane bid is having another crack. James Gott has filed a resource consent application to operate a floatplane business on Lake Wakatipu, almost a year after his first attempt sparked strong opposition. Gott wants to run two Cessna 208 Supervan 900 floatplanes, each with a maximum of five flights from Queenstown Airport per day, between 8am and 8pm. In his last application, he proposed to take off from either Bob’s Cove, Wilson Bay, Sunshine Bay or an unnamed bay between the last two. The planes will ‘‘perform touch and goes in a direction that is parallel to the shoreline and not within 500m of the shore of Lake Wakatipu’’, according to the latest application. Gott didn’t respond to a request for comment by Mountain Scene's deadline. In 2009, Kiwi pilot Brent Collins proposed a Queens­town Bay-based operation, though the ‘air strip’ was to be more than 800 metres from the tip of the Queenstown Gardens peninsula. Before the proposal was abandoned there was substantial opposition includ­ing an ‘Opposition to Float Plane Runway in Queenstown Bay’ group, formed by a local resident.

The following is fcoverage of the proposed operation from 2018

Lake Wakatipu might be home to another water tourism operation — if it can get off the ground. Queenstown Floatplane Services Ltd has applied for resource consent to land and take off up to 10 times a day from either Bobs Cove, Wilson Bay, Sunshine Bay or an unnamed bay between the last two. The floatplane company, owned by local Dalefield property owner James Gott, would choose which bay to operate from based on wind direction and surface conditions, including whether other lake craft were present. It was proposing to use two Cessna Supervan 900 aircraft capable of carrying nine people including the pilot. Mr Gott’s planner claimed his proposal would have far less impact than previous floatplane proposals because it avoided Queenstown Bay and there would not be any permanent structure on the bed of the lake. Passengers would board the plane from the shore, from where it would be towed to the take-off and landing area. In 2009, Kiwi pilot Brent Collins proposed a Queenstown Bay-based operation, though the "air strip" was to be more than 800m from the tip of the Gardens peninsula. Before the proposal was abandoned there was substantial opposition including an "Opposition to Float Plane Runway in Queenstown Bay" group, formed by a local resident. Mr Gott’s application said he had "taken great care in selecting the take-off and landing locations, as w ell as the flight paths, to minimise potential noise disturbance and adverse amenity effects". "The take-off and landing locations have been relocated after discussion with the council to have them further set back from the land." A report by acoustic consultants recommended the aircraft took off more than one kilometre from the nearest dwelling, in each bay, to meet New Zealand noise standards. However, Mr Gott was likely to face strong opposition from residents. Sue Farry, who had lived in the vicinity since 1975, said using Bobs Cove for a floatplane landing strip was "just ridiculous". She said the area hosted the closest stand of native bush to central Queenstown, attracting birdlife that she maintained would be incompatible with floatplanes. Kris Vermeir moved in about 15 years ago. He noted that Southern Discoveries’ Spirit of Queenstown catamaran silenced its engines when it pulled into Bobs Cove for stopovers on its daily cruises to Mt Nicholas. Mr Gott could not be reached for comment. 

and at Lyttleton...

A lack of information about a plan to stage float plane tours from Lyttelton Harbour is frustrating residents, while experts warn it could drive away rare dolphins. Peninsula Air, owned by two Canterbury lawyers, has approached the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) with its proposal, in its early stages, which would have seaplanes taking off from the harbour up to 112 times a month. Flights would take off and land on a section of water between Quail Island and Rapaki, and would run in daylight hours only.  It was unlikely a plane would land on a dolphin, though if it did it could cause injury, but those landing near a dolphin would give it "a very good fright". She said it was "really difficult to know" what impact adding planes would have on the dolphin's population, but was concerned it could drive some dolphins out of the harbour, where they would be in danger of being caught in fishing nets. Slooten said Banks Peninsula was a "hot spot" for the Hector's dolphin, with about 2000 of the 10,000-strong population living there. If the planes were to land in Akaroa Harbour, or other areas of the peninsula, it would be a "horror scenario". She said there were less dolphins in Lyttelton Harbour than Akaroa, likely because Lyttelton was busier and louder, and adding float planes would make the place even less suitable for the mammals. The CAA has called for public submissions on the proposal, but residents and the local community board are frustrated over a lack of information about the plans, which is making it difficult for them to make meaningful submissions. Banks Peninsula Community Board deputy chairman Tyrone Fields the board was planning to make a submission, but it had not been drafted yet because of the lack of information available. "Our primary focus is on the health and wellbeing of the harbour environment so I personally would not be supportive of anything detrimental to that." He said those he had talked to in the community were also struggling to make a submission. "It's hard to comment on something we know so little about". Lyttelton Community Association chairman Ken Maynard said it was upsetting Peninsula Air had not engaged with the community. Helicopter flights in the past had shown that flights in the area made "a terrific din" because of the shape of the harbour, with noise echoing around inside. The target market was not locals but "rich folk off cruise ships", Maynard said. He said Peninsula Air could do test flights to see how much noise they would make as the float planes did not need any infrastructure to land. The company, registered to the companies office as an aviation tour company, has two listed directors. The first is Mark Christensen, a Christchurch-based lawyer who specialises in natural resources law. The second is Rangiora-based lawyer Grant Edmundson, who served as chief executive for Baboom, a music streaming service once linked to Kim Dotcom that is on hold until further notice. He also holds the Guiness World Record for most consecutive opponents in tennis doubles. Neither Christensen nor Edmundson responded to requests for comment. The CAA is working on a study considering what affects the proposed flights would have, focussing on how the flights would impact other air traffic and whether there would be any safety issues. If given CAA approval, Peninsula Air would then need to seek further permissions and consents, depending on the specifics of what it plans to do and whether it needs to build anything to support the operation. Environment Canterbury harbourmaster Guy Harris said Peninsula Air had been in touch, but had not put in formal applications for permissions or consents at this stage. 

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