Tourism operators ‘disheartened’

Published date05 August 2021
The master plan for the Milford Opportunities Project was released to the public last week, at a presentation in Te Anau.

The reaction from locals was cautiously optimistic, but tourism operators further afield were not so happy.

The cruise ship industry says a plan to ban cruise ships from the sound could result in fewer visits to other stops in the south, including Dunedin.

Queenstown tourism operators said they would be hit hard by the closure of the airport, which would stop visits by fixed-wing aircraft.

Years in the making, the project was in response to concerns of rapidly growing visitor numbers in Milford Sound/Piopiotahi.

Numbers peaked at 870,000 visitors in 2019, up from 430,000 in 2013.

Southland District Mayor Gary Tong believed the most controversial points would be the aerodrome runway removal and cruise ship ban.

‘‘That was the only time I heard any noise from the crowd.’’

But he believed the plan was well received.

However, there was anger from beyond Te Anau.

Queenstown Milford Users Group chairman and Glenorchy Air owner James Stokes said the proposal to close the airport was a ‘‘kick in the guts’’ for tourism operators already hit hard by Covid-19.

This would have an immediate impact, not only on the many family run businesses in the region, but on tourism, too,

‘‘For the businesses operating out of Queenstown, Wanaka and Te Anau, Milford Sound experiences make up more than 90% of their revenue.’’

The group made its feelings known at a special meeting the project had with fixed-wing operators the next day.

Air Milford chief executive Hank Sproull said he left the meeting feeling ‘‘disheartened’’ and shaking his head.

Governance group chairman Dr Keith Turner said he understood the proposal to close the airstrip was controversial, but was not a lost opportunity for fixed-wing operators.

While helicopters would still be permitted at Milford, fixed-wing operators would be encouraged to use the Te Anau airstrip.

However, Mr Sproull said ‘‘everyone [at the meeting] was very disappointed at the pathetic proposal to remove the aerodrome’’.

The effect on operators was not properly considered and the entire aviation group would take legal action if necessary, he said.

However, Dr Turner said it was not a loss but a change in opportunity for fixed-wing operators.

‘‘The fixed-wing [operators] have already told us the ‘wow’ factor in their trip is over the alps... We want them to continue that and fly around Mitre Peak, if that’s what their...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT