Wanaka councillors Quentin Smith and Niamh Shaw were among four councillors who voted unsuccessfully against the adoption of the Queenstown Airport Corporation’s (QAC) three-year statement of intent last week.
The Queenstown Lakes District Council met on Wednesday last week to consider the council-controlled airport company’s long-term vision.
Queenstown-Wakatipu councillors Nikki Gladding and Esther Whitehead added their voices to a chorus of discontent against the document, but the motion passed in a split vote, 7-4.
We Love Wakatipu Inc chairwoman Cath Gilmour and Flightpath 2050 member John Hilhorst have lodged official complaints about the airport agenda item.
During the public forum, they and several others urged councillors to reject the statement of intent.
Ms Gilmour said it contained “false information” while Mr Hilhorst said it contained an “error that significantly mispresents the process” of approving the statement.
The Queenstown council owns 75% of shares in QAC, and Auckland Airport owns the remainder.
QAC is under reverse sensitivity pressure from Queenstown residents opposing changes to airport noise boundaries.
QAC’s 100-year lease over Wanaka Airport was recently set aside, following a judicial review of the consultation process.
The council is repaying $3.2million of fixed assets and $10.9million of prepaid lease, while airport earnings and expenses are being paid into council coffers.
The heavily criticised agenda item was prepared by corporate services general manager Meaghan Miller and reviewed and authorised by chief executive Mike Theelen.
Ms Gilmour said the statement of intent “wrongfully gives your governance role to QAC” and continued to insist on potential growth of the noise boundary.
“It justifies doing so by a narrative that morphs community wellbeing into meeting airline demand and creating long-term value for shareholders, business partners and, last in line, communities.”
Meanwhile, there was “zero community input or visibility” into QAC’s 10-year strategy, no feedback would be sought until after an airport master plan had been produced, and QAC would be able to rewrite its constitution without council input, she alleged.
“You, as our elected representatives, must have more real input than final sign-off,” she said.
Mr Hilhorst said councillors had been wrongly advised three years in a row they had to agree to the statement of intent so QAC could be compliant and continue operating.
That was why was he was lodging an official complaint and seeking a correction, he said.
Cr Shaw asked for standing orders to be suspended so she could ask clarifying questions of QAC chief executive Colin Keel and board member Simon Flood.
Mayor Jim Boult stopped her in mid-sentence when she asked “how grumpy would the board feel .” (her sentence was unfinished).
Cr Shaw could not ask Mr Flood to comment on other board members’ feelings, he said.
The statement of intent was the result of a long programme of active and good faith consultation and the board of directors would like to do the job they had been appointed to do, Mr Flood said.
Cr Gladding said QAC’s statement of intent caused “a lot of angst in community” and asked “would the the board mind having an open strategic plan?”
“I am trying to understand where the resistance to consultation is. I don’t know where that desire to keep that document hidden is coming from.”
Mr Flood said the board engaged “in good faith with everybody”, the document represented a collaborative effort and there was no intention to keep it secret.
After the vote to adopt the statement was carried, Mr Boult acknowledged Mr Keel’s last day at QAC and wished him well.
Mr Keel had been “unfairly singled out for criticism that was unwarranted and you had been simply doing your job”, Mr Boult said.