Winery at Hato was always meant as a short-term test project
WILLEMSTAD - When the representatives of Curaçao Winery approached the operator of Curaçao International Airport 2,5 years ago with the request if they could use airport property to test the concept of successfully growing grapes in Curaçao, it was decided to have the winery temporarily use a small area to conduct their tests. However, it was clearly agreed upon, among others in writing, that the area would soon have another aeronautical destination, meaning long-term use was always out of the question.
CAP has taken note of the press conference given by The Winery Curaçao on Friday morning. Representatives of the winery indicate that the airport property owners are suddenly forcing the winery to close its doors, implicating that the winery’s usage of the area was other than the test period they had requested 2,5 years ago. In addition, CAP has always shown cooperation and good-will, by not only making the area available for the test project, but also by being understanding and considerate towards the harvest period when finalizing the 12-month notice agreement to vacate, and by facilitating the winery with meetings with owners of other possible and more suitable areas. CAP had allowed the winery-test to occur at the airport because it was limited in size to just a couple of acres; it was to be of a very short duration; and it would facilitate the proof of concept for another economic activity for Curaçao. CAP has fulfilled its commitment to the winery, and to the economic interest of Curaçao, by allowing the proof of concept test to be conducted and completed without ever receiving compensation for the use of this property.
Short-term use of airport property
About 2,5 years ago, CAP was asked by the governmental company CAH to meet with the representatives of The Curaçao Winery to discuss the concept of producing wine on Curaçao as another element of future economic growth for the island. The Winery representatives indicated that they needed a couple of acres of land to test the concept of successfully growing grapes on Curaçao as a ‘proof of concept’ effort. They indicated that based on their assessment, the land here at the airport would be most compatible for such a test, and also, the availability of water at the proposed site was key for their test. If the test was successful, the winery indicated that they would need about 25 acres of land to have economically viable production capability.
CAP indicated that the CAP airport property that they wanted to use was dedicated in the Airport Master Plan for the construction of hangars, essentially to support the maintenance requirements of the airlines, and that any long term commitment of such property was out of the question. The Winery then requested CAP to consider the short-term use of the property just to conduct the testing of the concept which is a process that would take a couple of years. Since CAP knew that it would likely be at least a couple of years before the company would embark on the hangar construction project, and in order to potentially facilitate a new economic activity for Curaçao, it was decided to let the winery have the small area of property to conduct their tests. It was made clear, and in writing, that the winery would be required to relocate when CAP determined that the property was needed to begin the Hangar planning and construction process. It was agreed with the winery that they would be given 12 months’ notice to vacate.
Aeronautical development and safety
In no way has there ever been the inclusion of a winery in the Airport Master Plan. The long-term use, as a winery, is inconsistent with ICAO standards and recommendations (International Civil Aviation Organization). Curaçao has only one airport and a limited amount of useable land that can support its long term development. Such Airport properties and adjoining areas must be protected for highest and best airport- and aviation development purposes. Apart from securing the ‘highest and best’ use of the property for aviation support programs, it is critical also that ‘safety’ be considered and that the property is not used in any manner that could jeopardize the safety of flight. Airport and birds are not a compatible mix, and to the extent that activities that minimize the incidence of attracting birds can be avoided at an airport, that strategy must be employed.
The property in question is now needed for aeronautical purposes, and the winery must be relocated. The winery has been given 12 months notice as was agreed, and even more, as their end-year harvest was also taken into account.