The following is the response from the Informed Leaders to Christchurch International Airport Ltd. This follows their reply to our open letter earlier this year. You can read their reply at the foot of this page.

Michael Singleton
Project Director – Central Otago
Christchurch International Airport Ltd
PO Box 14001
Christchurch Airport
Christchurch 8544

Sent via email to Michael Singleton (cc list on second page)

Wednesday 8th March, 2023

Tēnā koe

The proposed international jet airport at Tarras, Central Otago

Thank you for your letter dated 14 February 2023 in response to our open letter.  We note the key themes of your letter, including:

  • The role aviation has played in New Zealand’s success, including the growth of visitor numbers.
  • The recognition Christchurch Airport has received in recent years, particularly from within the aviation industry, for steps you have taken to reduce your carbon footprint.
  • The need for New Zealand to have the right infrastructure in the right places.
  • The advantages of connectivity.
  • The recent growth in Central Otago’s population.

We agree that these are important themes. We agree that New Zealand should be thinking and planning – very carefully indeed – about our future. These intergenerational decisions.

What is missing from your letter, and worryingly absent from your public communications about this project, is a commitment from Christchurch Airport to fully factor in the existing science and research. This should also be presented to your directors, shareholders, stakeholders and importantly the public to inform discussion, debate and decision making.

The existing science and research is extensive. It has been produced following rigorous research protocols, peer reviewed before publication, and it is independent in that it is not driven by a commercial imperative or interest. In other words, it is unbiased. The research and science is unequivocal. Unfortunately it casts a long shadow over your proposed airport.

To say that “there is ample evidence that technologies exist to achieve transition” is incorrect. As you know, delivering low carbon aviation at scale is fraught with numerous thorny issues and there are presently no reliable solutions. It is admirable that groups of organisations are working on this, but that mahi in itself does not justify the building of a new airport. 

Airports are, by their very nature, carbon intensive businesses, and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. Global aviation growth continues to fuel growth in harmful emissions, as it has for many decades and is forecast to continue to do over the coming decades. A new international airport undeniably invites more growth.

Finally, whilst we applaud and encourage any New Zealand business reducing its carbon footprint, Christchurch Airport’s claim of being “climate positive” should be heavily qualified. As you know, you include in this claim less than 1% of the emissions that, by your own calculations, your airport enables. Even with the announcement of your Kowhai Park solar project, these emissions are huge.

We welcome your “open door” and “open mind” approach. To that end, we will be writing again soon to point you towards the relevant research and data.

Nāku noa, nā

Distinguished Professor James Higham
On behalf of Infomed Leaders

This letter is also copied to

  • Christchurch International Airport Limited CEO and board members
  • Rt. Hon. Chris Hipkins and Hon. Carmel Sepuloni 
  • Christchurch City Council Mayor, Councillors, Community Board Members and Execs
  • Christchurch City Holdings Limited board members and executive
  • Central Otago District Council councillors, Community Board Members, Executive
  • Otago Regional Councillors

You can read our original 24th January open letter to Christchurch Airport here, and then read their 14th February response to our letter here.