Australians could fly into a fifth New Zealand destination by the end of the decade, with plans afoot to build a second airport near South Island's ski heartland.
Tarras, a tiny farming community best known until now as the home of runaway merino sheep 'Shrek', has been identified as the site for a new international airport.
The owners of Christchurch Airport have already spent $NZ45 million ($A42 million) on land acquisition and initial work on a site less than half an hour's drive from the resort town of Wanaka.
They expect to spend hundreds of millions more in the coming years, and will now consult locals before building an airport capable of handling jet aeroplanes capable of crossing the Tasman.
"Today is the first time we've announced those plans publicly," Christchurch Airport boss Malcolm Johns told Radio NZ.
"Our top priority now is a conversation with the people who live closest to the site.
"This is their home and it's important they are given the opportunity to ask us their questions directly and understand our thinking."
The site is an hour's drive northeast of Queenstown and five hours' drive southwest of Christchurch.
Mr Johns said the onset of COVID-19 could see them "sit on the land" for years, but with Queenstown Airport reaching its capacity "sometime in the next decade", they were keen to pick up the slack.
"The conversation has been bubbling around for a couple of years around the availability of aviation infrastructure in the lower South Island," he said.
"Best case scenario we might open in five years. But Queenstown will fill up first.
"This airport is designed as an 'and'. So there will be Queenstown 'and' this airport ... it's not an either-or.
"Looking at it over the next 50 years, there's no question those communities are going to need more infrastructure."
New Zealand has four major international airports accessible from Australia; Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown.
Regular travel has currently been suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, though both the Australian and New Zealand governments are keen to resume normal air flows within months when Australian cases drop.