Protesters make themselves heard

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Opponents of Wanaka Airport expansion made sure Queenstown Lakes district councillors and Mayor Jim Boult heard their protests last week.

When Mr Boult, councillors and executives arrived for a full council meeting at the Lake Wanaka Centre, about 40 placard-waving people in the car park accused them of ‘‘not listening’’ to Upper Clutha residents.

Protest organiser Anna Simmonds said they wanted to send a clear message they did not want a jet-capable airport in Wanaka, and called for the council to ‘‘stop wasting ratepayers’ money’’ pursuing the idea.

‘‘It is the wrong direction and makes no sense given we have just declared a climate and ecological emergency,’’ she said.

In the public forum, Wanaka Stakeholders Group deputy chairman Mark Sinclair told councillors the recent judicial review had found the council lease of Wanaka Airport to the Queenstown Airport Corporation was unlawful and the council must start to consult ‘‘openly and transparently’’ on any plans for Wanaka Airport.

Mr Sinclair said he represented 3500 members, had the support of the five Upper Clutha residents’ associations and ‘‘we do tell the truth’’.

‘‘Councillors and QLDC executives, we are watching you, we will hold you to account and we will not go away,’’ he said.

Before the council meeting, Mr Boult told protesters there had never been an intention for an international airport at Wanaka.

‘‘I am here to do what I can to put facilities across the entire district that the community wants and so I am listening to what is being said today,’’ Mr Boult said.

He did not know if and when a consultation process with the community on the future of Wanaka Airport would take place.

‘‘It is not for me to decide; it is for council to decide,’’ he said.