Letter to QLDC from WSG re Statement of Intent

The following is the full text of a letter sent by Wanaka Stakeholders Group to the Mayor and Councillors of QLDC today regarding the SOI.

24th June 2019

Dear Mayor and QLDC Councillors,

This Thursday you will be considering the proposed final Statement of Intent as put forward for your consideration by the Board of QAC.

WSG believes council does not have a mandate to approve the Statement of Intent since the dual airport business plan submitted by the Arup Siting Study Report to QAC as the most viable option is dated April 2017, AFTER the QLDC sought to consult with the residents and ratepayers in November 2016 on the Proposal for a Long-term lease to QAC.

Our group remains seriously concerned that despite numerous requests for public input into the ramifications of the Draft SOI as presented back in March – nothing has transpired. Our requests to have Council engage with the Upper Clutha Community on the potential future changes to the Wanaka Airport have been declined as was our request to have the matter placed on the Wanaka Community Board meeting agenda.

We are currently being consulted and asked to submit on the Wanaka Town Centre Master Plan and on various stages of the waterfront redevelopment – and yet the project which will potentially have the greatest effect on us as a community is being advanced by Council and QAC without proper consultation. The lack of community involvement stands in stark contrast to the assurances by Council back in 2016 that the Wanaka community would have input on the development of Wanaka Airport.

Council acceptance through the SOI that Wanaka is being developed as a “dual airport” is of major concern. As the Arup Siting Study released by QAC sums up in its key recommendation: “This option (Wanaka) provides an opportunity for alleviating the constraint of environmental factors on the existing airport (Queenstown).” That suggests something far more significant than a supplementary and complementary role. Indeed, the notion that QAC would spend $300-400 million to make Wanaka Airport capable of handling jets, only to limit services to 400,000 passenger movements a year makes no financial sense whatsoever.

It defies business logic and the projected growth in passenger numbers put out by QAC.

According to QAC, total passenger movements for the region are expected to grow to 6 million by 2035 and 7.1 million by 2045. Depending on noise boundaries at ZQN, the potential is clearly for 2 million plus of those movements to be landing in Wanaka within the next 15 to 20 years. That would have an immense and, we believe, damaging impact on the Upper Clutha communities.

Across the whole District, our communities are saying quite clearly that they have considerable concerns about the pace of growth and the negative effects of “overtourism” on our wellbeing and quality of life and on our environment. Some of these effects are already becoming apparent. Tourism relies heavily on ‘the social contract’ with host communities, and there is a very real and growing risk of this contract breaking down in our region unless local voices are listened to and acknowledged.

QAC’s projection of tripling current movements no doubt makes an attractive business proposition – but if it ends with the community not supporting this level of activity due to the impact of  “overtourism” – then clearly the sustainability goal will not be met. Once the “overtourrism” tap is turned on through a dual airport model, it will be impossible to turn it off.

This is not just about airports – it’s about protecting our communities from the overwhelming and devastating impact of “overtourism”. That is not a decision for QAC to make – it is a matter that is critical to us all, to the future of our families, our communities and our environment.  It is a matter for QLDC to consult with us on and to determine with our support.

We urge you to ensure that a dual airport model is not adopted.  There is no demonstrated community mandate for the dual airport model. The objection to airport expansion and unmanaged visitor growth has been clearly demonstrated by residents in and around Queenstown. The same sentiment is alive and strong in Wanaka. 

Yours sincerely,

Michael Ross

Chair – Wanaka Stakeholders Group Incorporated.

Cc:

CEO – Mike Theelen

Wanaka Community Board

Hawea Community Association

Luggate Community Association

Albert Town Community Association

Mt Barker Residents Association

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