Queenstown Airport is in danger of ''killing the golden goose'' if it doesn't look elsewhere for long term expansion, says an experienced pilot and long term Wanaka resident.
The airport has announced plans to significantly expand its noise boundaries into large residential areas and almost double the aircraft movements allowed by the present boundaries in the next 30 years.
While the airport company says it has assessed alternatives, airline captain Terry Hetherington is urging it to keep looking.
He said the two-airport model - Queenstown and Wanaka airports - was ''fundamentally flawed'' and the company should be working towards one very good single airport servicing all of Central Otago.
''There are several good locations between Cromwell, Queensberry and Tarras that could accommodate an excellent airport and all the associated infrastructure. The land being rural, river terraces is ideal and centrally located between Queenstown, Wanaka, Cromwell and Alexandra.''
Hetherington has joined other local opponents who say the increase in the number of aircraft movements will harm the very environment that attracts increasing numbers of visitors to the area.
The airport is planning for 41,600 scheduled aircraft movements a year by 2045, an average of 114 a day. This would mean more than doubling annual passenger movements (counting both arrivals and departures) from about 2.05 million to about 5.1 million.
The present noise boundaries allow for 21,000 scheduled aircraft movements each year.
The airport has said the results of its growth would include a predicted $596 million for Otago's GDP by 2045, thousands of job opportunities and less pressure on regional roads.
It has ruled out alternatives.
Hetherington has been flying around the area for the past 20 years, before 10 years ago joining one of the major airlines serving Queenstown. He has submitted his views to the airport during the five-week consultation period which ends next week.
He said Queenstown Airport was nearing its use-by date.
''The development of Wanaka Airport is likely to be a repeat of the problems that Queenstown Airport is experiencing; clearly the lessons haven't been learned.''
Wanaka's runway also had limited potential to expand, he said.
But Queenstown Airport's chief executive Colin Keel said alternatives had been assessed but were found to be unsatisfactory.
In its discussion document, the airport says Mossburn/Five Rivers would deliver the lowest noise impact on the community and was assessed as being capable of meeting forecast growth.
However, it would require a very high capital investment and significant infrastructure development. The distance and roading infrastructure for the volume of traffic to and from Queenstown were also negative factors, said the company, which is owned 75 per cent by the Queenstown Lakes District Council and 25 per cent by Auckland International Airport.
Wanaka/Hawea Downs also had the capability to handle forecast growth with lower noise impacts, but required very high capital investments both at the airfield and surrounding infrastructure.
Travel time and customer experience were also factors. The Wanaka/Hawea Downs option was not entirely ruled out, but the development of Queenstown Airport and a dual airport model were considered more viable and were taken forward for further consideration.
''On balance, relocation of the existing airport was ruled out for a number of reasons.
These included capital costs, associated roading and other infrastructure requirements, accessibility for customers and workers, as well as environmental impacts, the document says.
New Zealand Air Line Pilots' Association president Tim Robinson said his organisation was looking forward to hearing more about the development plans for both Queenstown and Wanaka airports.
The recent Supreme Court ruling regarding safety areas required at major New Zealand airports demonstrated the importance of having a runway end safety area (RESA) of an adequate length and the association was working with Civil Aviation to support this.
He said the association supported the modernisation of the New Zealand aviation sector but safety must be paramount, particularly for both Queenstown and Wanaka.
''They must achieve compliance with international aviation standards, and runway safety should be seen as a first step towards achieving this."