WSG responds to Mayor’s letter about Wanaka Airport

This morning, Wanaka Stakeholders Group Inc. Chair Michael Ross wrote to QLDC Mayor Jim Boult in reply to his letter yesterday. This is an open letter, which has also been copied to the Prime Minister, various ministers, heads of (tourism) industry and the CEO of Air New Zealand. It has also been sent to local and national media, who are taking an active interest in this exchange. The letter is reproduced in full below. Emails have been removed.

[On Wanaka Stakeholders Group Inc. letterhead]

Wednesday 31st July 2019

Dear Jim

Thank you for your detailed letter.

We are deeply disappointed at your response, which we note is your first public response to Wanaka Stakeholders Group in the 10 months we have been asking to be involved in consultation around the proposed redevelopment of Wanaka Airport.  We note that it takes a letter to government ministers, including the Prime Minister, to actually elicit a public response from you. On the up side, at least you have responded at last. So thank you for that.

We are not anti growth, and we wholeheartedly support the important place that Wanaka has in the southern lakes tourism mix. We fully support the existing general aviation activities at our Wanaka Airport and would welcome the redevelopment of  a new terminal to service local demand and turbo prop services as we enjoyed previously.

But to suggest that we take the next leap to a fully jet capable airport with all the significant ancillary services that would be needed to support that $400m development is currently a step too far. To get this “dual airport” project – as currently  proposed – over the line for the Upper Clutha community will require a much more inclusive community consultation. Regrettably this has not happened. If it had been done properly – we wouldn’t be having this dialogue now. The consultation needs to be driven not by QAC – but by the very Council who represents us and owns 75% of this CCTO.

Your letter is full of bluster.  Despite a number of assurances to the Wanaka Community, those assurances have absolutely no detail behind them.  Each time we’ve asked for substantive information, directly or via public forums, our requests have been declined by you and your colleagues.  So how can we have any confidence that there is any legitimate basis for your assurances?

For example, despite numerous requests for ongoing details of the lease agreement between QLDC and QAC in relation to Wanaka Airport, you have flatly refused to disclose this. This is a 100 year lease which defines and shapes how a community asset can be used, yet the very community which owns the asset has no idea of the conditions contained in that important document.  In the 2016 Statement of Proposal, it was stated that “the Council would retain ultimate control of the direction of the airport through mechanisms retained in the lease and, because QAC is a CCTO, through the Letter of Expectation/Statement of Intent process. The council involvement through these means would provide a way in which the Wanaka community could continue to have a say in the future direction of the airport.”  Thus, the lease is a fundamental element in the consultative process and without transparency around the terms of the lease, how on earth can you claim to have consulted with, or been open to, the community affected?

Quite frankly Jim, your letter shows once and for all the failure of QLDC to consult with the Wanaka community meaningfully, and you clearly have no intention to do so in the future.  The consultation processes you refer to have been largely delegated to QAC, and their efforts have been inadequate, misleading and selective.

Our member base of 1,500 people, and growing by the hour, are feeling completely unheard, disenfranchised and bypassed.  Our members are saying to us that they just will not just let this happen to the Upper Clutha community.

We are optimistic that at your next meeting, our elected representatives will demonstrate to us that they are hearing the concerns from across the district on QAC’s failings with the proposed Statement of Intent.  Thus far – it has to be said – QLDC has failed to assert its important influence in setting the strategic direction of QAC. For example, the noise boundary issue in Queenstown. So how can we have any confidence that our Council will take the upper hand in considering the needs of our community against the commercial imperatives of QAC, and doing what is right for our future?

We do not intend to answer the specifics in your letter today, but we certainly will do at the appropriate time.

We look forward to seeing you and your councillors at your full Council meeting in Wanaka next week.

Yours sincerely

[signed]

Michael Ross

Chair, Wanaka Stakeholders Group Inc.

[Ends]

If what you have read in this letter resonates with how you are feeling about QLDC’s lack of consultation with or consideration of our community, please ensure you have signed up to our membership base, and that you’ve encouraged your friends, family, neighbours, colleagues, tenants, landlords (etc etc) to do so! Here’s the link.

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