Financial independence planned for Ashburton Airport

Source: Local Democracy Reporting

The plan for the future of the Ashburton Airport is that it pays its own way.

Ashburton Airport.

By Local Democracy Reporter Jonathan Leask

The Ashburton District Council’s draft 30-year airport development plan focuses on making it self-reliant and enabling it to operate without being subsidised by ratepayers.

Public consultation will determine if that is where the plan lands.

READ MORE: Thousands of roles up for grabs at Auckland Airport job fair

Chief executive Hamish Riach said the feedback was that ratepayers should not be subsidising the operation of the airport and that thinking shaped the direction of the 30-year plan.

“If other revenue doesn’t meet our estimates and ambitions, there is only one way to balance the books,” Riach said.

The development plan is designed to get the airport to be a self-supporting venture rather than a rates-subsidised-operation he said.

Currently, the airport has two sources of income, site leases and landing fees, but in the airport’s annual budget of around $150,000 per year, around 60 per cent ($90,000) is being funded by rates.

New revenue options proposed in the plan include new commercial and recreational hangar precincts and exploring the option of a hangar home precinct, where people could live at the airport. But it will require a district plan change process.

A skydiving business has set up operations while a flight school is also proposing to take up residence.

The council will also consider ways to improve fee income in its 2022/23 Annual Plan budget process.

All of these initiatives are designed to, in time, makeup that 60 per cent shortfall currently serviced by ratepayers.

Councillor Leen Braam said the council has focussed on a user-pays model and through consultation “the public will tell us if we are right or wrong”.

The airport occupies over 100 hectares owned by the council and senior policy advisor, Richard Mabon, said the plan does not envisage any extensions.

“We believe that for the 30-year period of the plan that the airport can successfully continue to operate with the exiting runways and within the existing footprint,” Mabon said.

The demand does not exist for an extension but Mabon said commercial circumstances can change over 30 years and the plan does not inhibit future councils from purchasing land for an extension.

As part of the consultation, the council plans to hold an open day for people to look around the airport and discuss the plan.