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Locals demand answers over plans to build international airport in Tarras

Locals in the Central Otago town of Tarras are demanding answers over plans to build an international airport in their community.

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Developers Christchurch Airport fronted the first public meeting since the news broke. Source: 1 NEWS

The developers, Christchurch International Airport turned up to the first public meeting on Wednesday night since the news broke last week.

Tarras resident Peter Walker is in the middle of building his dream home which is directly opposite the site of a proposed new airport.

“Found this beautiful piece of paradise and now it's going to change dramatically.”

Robbie Gibson lives down the road from the possible site, where his family has worked on farm in Tarras for three generations.

Before any talk of the new airport, the area was best known for merino sheep and scenic mountains.

“For us, you just can't comprehend what it means to us, when we've farmed all this land all our lives.”

Christchurch International Airport wants to build on the outskirts of the 230-population township.

It has spent $45 million buying 750 hectares of land, with plans for a 2.2 km long runway where jets could land.

Locals voiced their concerns to the developers at the public meeting.

“Have you given any thought to the idea that some of us might not want any more tourists,” said one local.

“This infrastructure already exists in your own town that you are not spoiling … it's ludicrous.”

Another local who sold his land says he didn't know who was buying it.

“We were bound by a confidentiality clause so we couldn't tell anyone, and now we feel kind of bad and want to apologise to the community.”

Tarras Community Trust spokesperson, Scott Worthington says, “we are just Kiwis and I just think, honestly, we just want what we think Kiwis all want, a fair deal.”

Representatives from the airport have been talking with individuals in the community since Tuesday, deciding to come along to the town’s public meeting to hear concerns.

“I think the community has heard from us and that's what they wanted to do. I think for them they thought there was some information still missing but I hope people went away with more information,” said Michael Singleton from Christchurch International Airport.

“If it's going to go ahead, then it's going to go ahead, but we need to know when, we can't just be sitting here for the next five or ten years thinking it may happen,” says Peter Walker.

But any certainty is still a long way off with no formal plans yet and the consent process could take years.

Conversations in the community are expected to continue for some time.