An improved airstrip at a new resort development is the key to making Lake Tekapo in South Canterbury a destination to stay rather than just a toilet stop.

Investment company Lilybank Station plans to reopen the Lilybank Lodge at the head of Lake Tekapo - it has been empty for five years - and link it to a resort development.

A new airstrip and a golf course designed by Greg Turner are planned.

Lilybank spokesman Chris Herbert said the $40 million Mackenzie Country project would take 12 to 18 months to complete. Work on a 1.3km airstrip near the lodge is set to begin within two months.

"We've already been granted a recreation permit for the strip and are now investigating if it can be sealed. Tekapo tour operators are very enthusiastic about any landing opportunity in this type of country."

The chairman of Mackenzie Tourism, Graham Murray, said the Lake Tekapo region needed facilities that encouraged tourists to stay.

"Traditionally, Tekapo is a place where you go to the toilet, take a few photos and then you move on."

He said other tourism operators would embrace the plans, which would help the industry continue to boom.

A Lake Tekapo scenic resort duty manager agreed, saying the project would be good for an area "where people usually just stop for a day and then go on".

Lilybank is also seeking consent for a multimillion-dollar golf course, work for which could begin by the end of the year.

The course would be designed by Greg Turner, who is using the project to try to lure golf legend Jack Nicklaus into designing courses in this part of the world.

"Greg is saying the scenery is sensational and appealing to Nicklaus' love of the New Zealand high country," Mr Herbert said.