CHC Airport CEO continues to stonewall community about tarras

Christchurch Airport CEO, Malcolm Johns, has continued to refuse to answer a set of reasonable and important questions about the proposed Central Otago Airport at Tarras. The questions, first asked in November 2021, were updated and sent to Johns. SCOA received the now standard reply which was a combination of “we don’t have answers yet” and “read our website”.

The questions, now 63 in number (updated from the original 46 questions posed and unanswered in 2021) are below.

63 questions for the CEO of Christchurch Airport about CIAL’s plans for a Jet Airport at Tarras

Lack of consultation/engagement and open dialogue with stakeholders and the community

  1. When was the government as 25% shareholder in Christchurch Airport, first informed about plans for a new jet airport at Tarras?
  2. When was Christchurch City Council, as 75% shareholder in Christchurch Airport, first informed about plans for a new jet airport at Tarras?
  3. On which dates have subsequent briefings about the proposed airport been given to the two shareholders above?
  4. On which dates have Christchurch City Council elected members been briefed by CIAL directly?
  5. When was an initial business case for the new airport put to your two shareholders?
  6. When and in which communities (please identify them) will you be holding public sessions, available to anybody in the community to attend, where questions can be asked spontaneously and will be answered honestly by CIAL?
  7. Why have you not held such sessions in communities like Queenstown, Wanaka, Cromwell, Hawea, Alexandra and Omarama in over two years since the project was announced?
  8. Will you agree to such open community sessions being facilitated by a professional MC, chosen by the community, for each community you visit?
  9. Will you agree to all such sessions being filmed by us (unedited), to share with members who cannot attend but wish to stay informed? Identities of audience members can be kept from the filming if they wish.
  10. Why have you not consulted local communities openly and transparently before taking steps to make submissions to the ORC about easing restrictions on activities which will impact the environment or the community?
  11. Can you please clearly define what you mean when you talk about “affected communities” on your website (previous version, updated mid August)? Which specific communities do you deem “affected” by the airport?
  12. Are you prepared to have CEO Malcolm Johns do a full, unedited video interview with a professional interviewer nominated by SCOA, to take place before the end of the year, and to share with members of Stop Central Otago Airport and the wider community, to start answering some questions? Our conditions would be: 1) No questions supplied in advance; 2) No editing of the interview footage; 3) No PR handlers in the room and 4) Professional, editorial news style interview conducted by a professional interviewer. We anticipate that this would take no longer than an hour.
  13. Social licence means consultation with a fully informed public. When is consultation going to take place, with all the required information to hand, in a format that the public can easily consume, with plenty of time for the public to respond with questions or concerns, or even seek more information from CIAL?
  14. You claim in your communications that the community wants and needs this airport. Where is the clear social proof of this? What data do you have on this?
  15. On your website (prior to updating in the last fortnight) you stated that “the [Tarras Airport] project includes a strong platform of community, iwi and stakeholder engagement which will continue if the airport becomes operational.” We are now 25 months in. Please share this platform/plan with us so that we understand how you have been and will engage with all of these groups, and the planning you have put into this. To be clear, we’re asking for the detailed engagement plan here.
  16. We’re aware that you have met with carefully selected industry groups and business groups. Please provide details of each group you have met with, the dates of the briefing and number of attendees.
  17. Who specifically do you mean by “stakeholders” on your website? Please list these.

Lack of clarity around meetings with key stakeholders

  1. How many meetings (please confirm the date of the first such meeting) have Christchurch Airport employees and/or consultants/contractors had with representatives of Ngai Tahu, where Tarras Airport has been discussed?
  2. How many meetings (please confirm the date of the first such meeting) have Christchurch Airport employees and/or consultants/contractors had with representatives of ORC, where Tarras Airport has been discussed?
  3. How many meetings (please confirm the date of the first such meeting) have Christchurch Airport employees and/or consultants/contractors had with representatives of CODC, where Tarras Airport has been discussed?
  4. How many meetings (please confirm the date of the first such meeting) have Christchurch Airport employees and/or consultants/contractors had with representatives of CCC, where Tarras Airport has been discussed?

The problem of climate change and environmental impacts

  1. Against the background of huge climate change issues, challenging carbon reduction targets, and high levels of concern in the community, how can you justify building a new jet airport at Tarras?
  2. Have you discussed this challenge with both of your shareholders, who have both declared a climate emergency?
  3. Will you agree to an independent carbon emissions footprint assessment by an internationally recognised (eg UN) emissions experts that the community is comfortable with, measuring likely embedded carbon emissions (from the airport build) as well as projected operational emissions over its lifetime, projected aviation emissions and the indirect emissions a busy airport will create for Central Otago based on realistic/commercial flight volume scenarios?
  4. Will you agree to an independent aviation emissions assessment (not just carbon emissions) by an independent aviation emissions expert in a similar fashion as the question above?
  5. Are you aware of the recent recommendations of the Infrastructure Commission as regards reporting on all carbon emissions enabled by infrastructure projects in New Zealand?
  6. When will you have truly independent consultants undertake a full environmental impact assessment of the proposed new jet airport, for the community to consider?
  7. What initial specific assessments have been made to assess the potential for impact on protected, endangered and otherwise special wildlife particularly birds at the Bendigo Wetlands underneath the proposed flight path and in very close proximity to the airport? 
  8. Like many other airports in New Zealand, you claim that Christchurch Airport is environmentally friendly. When will you actually factor in the impacts of flights you are enabling in and out of your airports to provide a true representation of the impact your business has on our environment?

The likely negative impact on Central Otago

  1. When will you have truly independent consultants conduct an infrastructure impact assessment of the direct and indirect impacts of the proposed airport on the Central Otago region, including but not limited to impacts on roading infrastructure, housing demand, electricity transmission requirements, energy consumption, water usage, movement of people, transportation of large volumes of avgas over large distances, etc?
  2. How many road miles are fuel trucks going to have to make from fuel ports (presumably Port Chalmers or Bluff) to fuel the jets you project will fly in and out of the airport? Have you assessed the carbon, infrastructure and environmental costs of this?
  3. What are the restrictions you are likely to place on residents and businesses within a certain radius of Tarras Airport, based upon the restrictions in place at CHC?
  4. If you cannot answer the question above, please confirm the list of restrictions which are imposed upon people living and businesses based near CHC airport currently.
  5. What is your plan for affordable housing for airport staff?
  6. What are your projections for airport staff numbers?

The lack of a clear “business case” for a new airport

  1. What are the projected volumes of passengers which you anticipate will move through the airport over the coming decades? Please be very specific. And please provide clarification as to where these projections come from. 
  2. How do these projections justify the building of a new airport (as opposed to use of existing airports)? 
  3. What is the capital investment you are planning for the new airport, and over what time period will investors start to see industry standard ROI on their airport investment?
  4. What plans are there for detailed and extensive consultation with the people of Christchurch including presenting objective reports and information to help Christchurch ratepayers understand what this infrastructure project would mean for them, especially in terms of financials and risk? 
  5. What analysis has been undertaken of the investment requirements and debt loadings? When will this be shared?
  6. What is Christchurch Airport’s assessment of how much freight would move through the airport in the coming years and how does this compare with passenger numbers? Specifically, what categories of freight are in the breakdown and where do these numbers come from? Is seasonality reflected clearly in this?
  7. Aside from the land purchases, what is the total cost to date of consultancy, legal fees and staff time and resources in planning for this airport and where is that reported back to affected communities (mainly ratepayers)? 
  8. As above, but what are the projected costs of such consultancy etc. in the coming years (before an airport go/no go decision might be made)?

Lack of clarity about making the right infrastructure decisions for New Zealand

  1. What conversations has Christchurch Airport had with the other airports in the lower South Island about existing infrastructure and capacity? 
  2. The CEO of Christchurch Airport has been quoted as saying that the cost to build the airport is likely to be upwards of $650 million. Other estimates have been higher. Can you please give a rough breakdown of how that will be spent? For example, runway, terminal control tower, etc. 
  3. You state on your website that “The reality is current airport infrastructure won’t meet our future connectivity needs.” Please:
    1. Identify precisely which current airports are referred to by the word “infrastructure”, AND
    2. Identify how you have identified and quantified “our future connectivity needs”.
    3. Confirm who is referred to by “our” in this sentence, AND
    4. Based on all of the above, what precisely is your assessment of “our future connectivity needs”?
  4. On your newly updated website, you talk of “addressing airport constraints” – please share details of these so-called constraints.

Lack of detail around the “benefit of the community” argument

  1. Christchurch Airport has stated many times that the proposed airport at Tarras is needed for the future economic wellbeing of the community. What is the objective, evidence basis for this very significant claim? 
  2. Please identify precisely which “community “ is being referred to here.
  3. Which discussions with the community have taken place, and how has it been documented/proven that this is clearly something the community wants?

The real risk of airport greenwashing

  1. With claims being made by Christchurch Airport that this airport will pave the way for “a low carbon” (aviation) future, and given clearly agreed issues with “new technologies” not actually making a net difference yet, what specific plans does Christchurch Airport have to achieve this outside of enabling a few short distance electric flights in small capacity aircraft?
  2. How does Christchurch Airport justify its claims of Tarras Airport becoming “an airport which would be up there with the most sustainable in the world”?
  3. As above, but how does this equate with the carbon emissions it will create from the build and operation of the airport, along with from flights to/from the airport, and the huge carbon emissions footprint it would enable indirectly?
  4. On your website you say: “The new generation of sustainable aviation technology is likely to require changes to much of New Zealand’s existing airport infrastructure.” Which technologies are you specifically referring to, and which specific changes in infrastructure will be required?
  5. On your newly updated airport website, you state that the new airport would “enable greener aviation”. How specifically? Please be specific.
  6. On the updated website you state “The aviation industry accounts for 2% of New Zealand’s emissions and is taking urgent action to address climate change through decarbonisation.” Where have these figures come from, as the most recent figures published confirm 12%?
  7. What is your substantiation for the following claim? “In New Zealand, SAFs are likely to be the main solution to decarbonise long-haul flights while zero carbon hydrogen and electric planes will be used on domestic routes.”
  8. What percentage of the emissions you currently measure in relation to Christchurch Airport are “in scope” for your claim of being “climate positive”?
  9. Could we please have the most recent, detailed breakdown of emissions measured at Christchurch Airport?
  10. What percentage of electricity consumed at the airport is included in Scope 1?
  11. Could we please have copies of reports/plans for recycling of solar generation technologies as it (inevitably) becomes obsolete at Kōwai Park? What’s the pathway, and how do those projections look?
  12. You claim that Kōwai Park will serve as a “resilient supply of renewable energy for future aircraft” – please share the projections/calculations around this.

Difficulties with Christchurch Airport’s promises of openness and transparency.

  1. Christchurch Airport has stated that it will be open and transparent at all stages. Why then, is Christchurch Airport:
    1. making applications to change planning frameworks with Otago Regional Council, but not clearly informing affected communities that this is in progress, so that they can respond through normal democratic processes?
    2. not having open (and transparent) meetings with affected communities?
    3. but in the meantime having one-on-one meetings with selected stakeholders and individuals, behind closed doors?
    4. And prioritising briefing workshops with business and industry groups in Central Otago?

The chain of letters

  • Original list of 46 questions sent to Malcolm Johns in November 2021, with replies (no answers, “read our website”) – here.
  • Letter to Malcolm Johns, CEO of Christchurch Airport, 26th August 2022, attaching 63 important questions – here.
  • Reply from Christchurch Airport (Michael Singleton) dated 3 September 2022, refusing to answer questions – here.