19 June 2010

The Changing Faces of NZ Airfields

Haven't New Zealand airfields changed over the years... Once upon a time you could visit most airfields and even smaller airports, wander around and take photos of all sorts of aircaft. Then came the hangars, then increased security and now houses. Once upon a time I used to take photos of most NZ aircraft. That's why these days I take just the airline (in the widest sense of the word) stuff.

Sounds Air wants to build an airpark – a residential neighbourhood with its own airfield – at Picton Airport. The company has applied for land-use consent to subdivide 16 freehold residential sections on farmland it owns behind the airport in Koromiko. Sounds Air managing director Andrew Crawford said anyone buying the sections would build their own house and hangar. The development would also include storage warehouses and space for tourism and taxi offices. It would be one of the few airparks in the country where residents could taxi to their property, Mr Crawford said. "It's something a bit different, it's not grapes or the Sounds ... there's nowhere else in New Zealand that's doing this – not the true airpark arrangement." The company had not yet decided how much the sections would go on the market for, he said. He also would not talk about the overall cost of the development, but said Sounds Air had paid about $200,000 for detailed plans for the subdivision for its land-use consent application. Sounds Air has owned the airport since 1986 and bought the neighbouring farmland it plans to develop four years ago. Planning for the park began two years ago, but the company had held off because of the recession, Mr Crawford said. He expected to begin building within a year of getting planning approval. "We feel the market might be on an uplift and this is a good time to get it through council," he said. Market research and comments from pilots passing through the airport suggested there was support for the idea, he said. Airparks were popular in the United States. In this country, the Mackenzie District Council subdivided 33 sections on land next to Pukaki Airport in 2008, which returned more than $1.5 million. In April, Waiheke Island Airpark Resort Ltd won an Environment Court hearing to build 26 visitor units and 11 single hangars and a terminal at the existing airfield on the island. Noise would not be an issue for the properties as the small airfield "isn't Heathrow" and there were no plans to expand it, he said.

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