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It has had to be revised considerably, but New Zealand's first indoor skydiving centre is expected to open in central Queenstown early next year.

The $15million iFLY facility has been given the go-ahead by a resource consent commissioner for a prominent site in Brecon St.

It will feature a vertical wind tunnel which creates a cushion of air people can float on.

The project is a joint venture between Auckland couple Emma and Gary Beyer and wind tunnel manufacturer SkyVenture International.

Emma Beyer, managing director of iFLY Indoor Skydiving NZ, said construction should begin in about four months.

‘‘It's a pretty major construction and there are lots of variables but that's the plan.''

Similar indoor skydiving facilities operate in Australia, Dubai, England, the US, Canada and Brazil.

They attract on average about 150,000 customers per site each year, although Queenstown's iFly would be a custom design and one of the smallest.

The building would be on a site surrounded by the Queenstown Medical Centre, Bespoke Kitchen cafe, Caddyshack City mini-golf course, Queenstown Fire Station and an electricity substation.

It required consent, as it would be used for a commercial recreation activity and breaches zoning regulations - at 15.3m high it would be more than twice the height permitted in Brecon St's high density residential zone.

It would also be longer than planning rules permit with only half the car-parking required.

‘‘We made quite a lot of revisions but we're happy to do that,'' Ms Beyer said.

‘‘We have certain limitations [due to the activity] but we've tried to make it fit seamlessly with the surroundings and neighbouring buildings.‘‘We want to be welcomed by the community and seen as a real positive.''

Some neighbours raised concerns over shading, congestion, visual effects and noise from the fans, which send air shooting through the tunnel at up to 250kmh.

But hearing commissioner Andrew Henderson agreed with council and applicant planning experts the adverse effects would be ‘‘minor or less''.

Mr Henderson said no other party presented expert evidence at the hearing.

He accepted the building's bulk was ‘‘driven by the functional need of the activity'' and therefore granting consent would not set a precedent.

The facility will create 20 jobs during construction and 25-35 part-time and full-time jobs once complete.

Paul Early, of the New Zealand Parachute Organisation, supported the application, saying it would benefit the country's skydivers, youth development and tourism.
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Construction of iFly Queenstown underway - NZ's only skydiving wind tunnel

Construction of New Zealand's only indoor skydiving simulator is underway with iFly Queenstown scheduled to open in 2018.

iFly Indoor Skydiving NZ managing director Emma Beyer said the idea for the $15 million wind tunnel was first mooted for New Zealand in 2011.

The Brecon St site was in the heart of Queenstown on the tourist trail to the Skyline Gondola, which was a "perfect fit", she said.

"Having it in that location ... it's just awesome [because] the trouble with building a wind tunnel like this is it's not like building a shop. You can't just pick it up and move it."

The first shipment of parts for the attraction was due in a fortnight with construction "on track".

iFly Queenstown is a project between SkyVenture International which manufactures iFly wind tunnels and Auckland couple Emma and Gary Beyer.

Emma Beyer was on the British skydiving team that won the 2006 world champs, while husband Gary is a former world champion and 18-time US champion.

She says being in the wind tunnel is exactly the same as the freefall sensation when skydivers jump from a plane.

"You won't be able to tell the difference."

Professional skydivers and military trained in them around the world as they were much less costly and time consuming than the 30 to 60 second freefall from a plane, which took about 30 minutes in planning.

The new sport of Body Flying had developed inside tunnels and international competitions were now held. It was possible demonstrations and competitions could be held at the Queenstown site also.

However, she anticipated most people using the facility would be first-timers. It was safe for people aged from 3-years-old to 103, she said.

The construction involves an 8 metre deep basement and wind turbines that sit in the top of the building. The turbines blow air around the building, into the basement and then project it up through the centre of the building to create a 'flight chamber'.

The wind tunnel and most of the technology for the project will come from the United States.

Skydiving Fatalities - Cease not to learn 'til thou cease to live

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