Central Otago cherry growers hope to benefit from a new international airport at Tarras. In a public meeting in Tarras on Wednesday night, there was a range of speakers opposed to Christchurch International Airport Ltd's proposal.
Central Otago produces about 90 per cent of New Zealand's cherry exports, which were worth $84.1 million in the 2017-18 year and $66.2million in 2018-19. Most export cherries are trucked over the Lindis Pass and flown to Asian markets from Christchurch or Auckland airports.
Ross Kirk of Hortinvest said a Tarras airport would save "a hang of a lot of time" trucking the fruit.
It would also open up the possibility of chartered cargo aircraft taking cherries direct to overseas destinations, or to Australia to connect with even bigger aircraft.
In the past few years, the crop has weighed in at between 2000 tonnes and 2500 tonnes, one year producing 4500 tonnes. Kirk said there were many new "quite significant" plantings and the crop was likely to double in the next five years.
Some cherries had been exported through Queenstown Airport "but realistically it is not a viable long-term solution", he said. "Having an international airport that can take jets, right on our doorstep, would be fantastic."